The switch from former Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” program to the traditional Medicaid expansion endorsed by Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to be completed by the end of September, said Ted Dallas, acting secretary of the state Department of Human Services.
But the transition is a “couple-of-phase process” that will blend the three parts of the former governor’s program into the single Medicaid expansion plan adopted in more than 20 other states, Dallas said. The first phase is expected to be finished by April 30.
“There are IT changes needed to do that and all the other changes we need to get done,” he said in an interview.
The state will continue to provide individuals with health-care coverage and no coverage would be interrupted by the decision, he said.
Wolf, a Democrat, had announced last month that he planned to dismantle his Republican predecessor’s alternative Medicaid expansion and instead implement a traditional plan to extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians.
Wolf said the “Healthy PA” alternative plan was flawed, confusing some patients and leading others to lose treatment. He called his action a step “toward simplifying a complicated process and ensuring hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians have greater access to the health insurance they need.”
Unlike in other states, the governor does not need legislative approval to move forward with Medicaid changes.
Corbett’s plan, which had been implemented less than three weeks before he left office, used federal Medicaid dollars to buy private health insurance for low-income residents (below $32,913 for a household of four). Households above that level are eligible for premium subsidies in the form of tax credits for insurance purchased on the Obamacare insurance exchange.
Corbett had argued that traditional Medicaid expansion would be unsustainable and his plan contained numerous measures to cut costs and require small payments from participants. But most were not included in the version that the Obama administration approved in August.
Corbett aides spent more than a year negotiating with the Obama administration to let them use federal money to pay private insurers to cover the uninsured.
But the program was beset by problems when enrollment opened last fall, including a backlog, confusion among new enrollees and glitches in moving Medicaid recipients into new plans. Among those affected were patients who lost treatment for drug and alcohol problems because most private plans do not cover addiction and mental health treatment.