Monday, May 10, 2010
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Todd Eachus has introduced a bill that would force the four Blue Cross/Blue Shield nonprofits in the state to extend their funding of the adultBasic program. The program provides insurance to individuals who have lost insurance or have been rejected due to a preexisting condition. The Blues, including Pittsburgh based Highmark, entered into a voluntary agreement in 2005 to help fund the adultBasic program to the tune of $150 million over five years. That agreement expires in January. Eachus says without that money the state would have to drop 50,000 individuals from the adultBasic program. The tobacco settlement fund covers the rest of the cost of the program. Eachus says he met with the heads of the four organizations asking for their continued support and was rejected. The bill would extend a tax paid by for profit insurance providers to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield non-profit insurance providers and earmark the funds for adultBasic. The 2.4% tax would remain in place until the American Health Benefit Exchange is up and running in Pennsylvania making adultBasic obsolete. Eachus says the “Blues” have $6 billion in reserves, “I don’t want all six billion, I just want about $150,000,” says Eachus. The House Majority Leader says he hopes the introduction of the legislation will bring the blues back to the table and “avert any additional legislative action.” “It is not acceptable to let 50,000 people fall off insurance when the agreement lapses in January 2011,” says Eachus. A similar bill extending the tax to all nonprofit and for profit insurance providers is expected to be introduced in the coming days.