Why Is Schwartz Killing CHIP?

Last week, as party of his “HealthyPA” Initiative, Governor Corbett signed a bill to renew CHIP and eliminate a six month waiting period for enrollment in the program.

On September 11, the Obama Administration said that under ObamaCare, 50,000 PA children will have to leave CHIP and enroll in Medicaid instead. As the Patriot News reported, “Corbett opposes moving children out of Pennsylvania’s popular CHIP health insurance program, arguing it will cause disruptions such as forcing some children to change doctors. Corbett exchanged a series of letters with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius requesting flexibility on the matter.”

Since Allyson Schwartz has been one of Obamacare’s most passionate supporters in Pennsylvania, why has she remained silent on its devastating disruptions in Pennsylvania children’s health care? The bottom line is Allyson Schwartz and Barack Obama broke their promise that patients can keep their doctor, and now we deserve answers on CHIP and what additional troublesome impacts Obamacare will have on everyday Pennsylvanians.

With CHIP extension, Corbett and lawmakers move to protect Pa kids: Editorial
Patriot-News Editorial Board
October 18, 2013

Pension reform, liquor privatization and transportation funding may grab all the headlines, but lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett have taken one of the most important steps they’ll take all year to protect Pennsylvania’s neediest children.

With little fanfare, the state House approved, and Corbett swiftly signed, legislation extending Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, through 2015.

The program, which provides healthcare for 188,000 children in low- and moderate-income households across Pennsylvania, would have expired at year’s end without this crucial action.

CHIP coverage is free to children in a household of four with annual income at $47,000 or less. For a similarly sized household making up to $70,000 per year, participants would pay a monthly premium of $77 per child, plus co-pays for specific services.

The reauthorization is not expected to inflate the current $150 million annual cost of the Pennsylvania program, according to House and Senate budget projections.

Started under former Gov. Robert P. Casey, Pennsylvania’s insurance program is among the oldest in the country. And it was the model for the federal program that was enacted during the Clinton administration.

The bill lawmakers approved Tuesday is part of Corbett’s “Healthy PA” plan unveiled in September.

That proposal’s primary component calls for taking federal money that would have been used to expand Pennsylvania’s Medicaid rolls and instead allow uninsured, low-income people to purchase subsidized private coverage through the new insurance exchanges.

That approach requires approval from the federal government. And the fate of roughly a half-million people currently without coverage hangs in the balance while Washington considers the state’s request.

But the bill Corbett signed into law will do immediate good for children by eliminating a six-month “no coverage” periodrequired of some families before benefits could start to flow.

That waiting period was originally included to ease concerns that employers or families would drop private coverage in order to join a public program intended solely for families with no other available coverage.

Proponents of the change have argued that so-called “go bare” period made little sense in a program targeted to serve children.

Meanwhile, the Corbett administration is continuing to negotiate with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services over language in the federal Affordable Care Act that could cause about 50,0000 children to lose their state CHIP coverage and land instead in Medicaid, which the state jointly operates with the federal government.

That’s the result of a “glitch” in the federal healthcare law requiring employers to provide “affordable” insurance to workers, but not their families, according to Stateline.org.

Stateline notes that premiums for individual coverage can’t exceed 9.5 percent of an employee’s income. But there’s no such limit on the employee’s share for family coverage, whose price tag can run triple the cost of individual coverage.

In addition, federal subsidies for people with incomes less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($45,600 for an individual) will be unavailable to anyone who receives an offer of affordable insurance from his or her employer, Stateline reported.

This means that workers unable to afford their employer’s family coverage premiums will have to nowhere to go for coverage by CHIP or Medicaid — if they qualify.

Some states have already discontinued their CHIP programs as a way to reduce their administrative costs, Stateline reported.

Corbett and lawmakers did important work by extending coverage to Pennsylvania’s neediest children this week. We encourage Corbett to continue working with Washington to ensure that this model program is preserved.

(Patriot News Editorial Board. With CHIP extension, Corbett and lawmakers move to protect Pa kids: Editorial. Patriot News. October 18, 2013.)