Governor Tom Corbett is asking the federal government to step in and help solve Pennsylvania’s adultBasic funding problem.
The program offers health insurance for 41,000 low-income Pennsylvanians, but it’s set to expire at the end of February. Corbett has already offered enrollees a spot in the “Special Care” program offered by Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurers, which offers less coverage for more money. Democratic lawmakers and health care advocates have dismissed the alternative as inadequate. “They call adultBasic – I read in the paper – they call it bare-bones insurance,” said Jerry Kaufman of Erie, who recently came to the Capitol to protest the end of adultBasic. “So if adultBasic is bare-bones insurance, then Special Care is no-bones. In other words, it’s not even worth having.” Kaufman is battling prostate cancer, and said he’s worried Special Care won’t cover his upcoming radiation treatment.
Corbett is now trying to offer another option to adultBasic enrollees: space in Pennsylvania’s new state-run – but federally-funded – high-risk health insurance pool, called PA Fair Care. The federally-mandated guidelines would need to be tweaked for adultBasic users to join the plan, since people are only eligible to apply if they’ve been uninsured for more than six months. Corbett is also asking the Department of Health and Human Services for more money, so Pennsylvania can expand Fair Care beyond its current 3,500-person limit. As of right now, the state has $160 million to run the program through 2014.
Fair Care was created by President Obama’s federal health care law, which makes the whole episode a bit awkward for Corbett. Last spring, when Corbett was Attorney General and running in the Republican gubernatorial primary, he joined a lawsuit challenging the measure’s constitutionality. Now, he wants more money from it. Spokesman Kevin Harley insisted the two stances are consistent, explaining Corbett had a problem with a specific portion of the law: its language requiring people to purchase health insurance. “He never said that he opposed all of the elements of Obamacare. And unfortunately, the authors of Obamacare did not put in what’s known as a severability clause, which is if one part of the bill is found to be unconstitutional, the rest of it would be unconstitutional. They failed to do that when they wrote this bill,” he said.
Even if Washington officials change the eligibility requirements and increase funding, Fair Care may not be the best solution for adultBasic enrollees. Its $283 a month premium is much more expensive than the current program’s $36 fee, and double the most expensive Special Care premium of $140. “It’s certainly not the perfect solution, but unfortunately, adultBasic is unsustainable,” said Harley. “There’s no money for it.”