Saturday, January 15, 2011

43,000 Pennsylvanians Losing Health Care Insurance - Please Take Action

Incoming Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett's (R) transition team has announced that the new administration will allow adultBasic to expire at the end of next month. AdultBasic is Pennsylvania's health insurance program for adults with a low income who who do not have health insurance and do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.  Most often these are people with preexisting conditions that can not afford insurance in the private market and who are not covered under a plan provided by their employer.

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has summarized the issue.  Here's the email they sent to me.  Please take action here and here a.s.a.p. to protect access to health care for the 43,000 Pennsylvanian adults who will lose their health care insurance next month if Governor-Elect Corbett goes through with his plan to allow AdultBasic to expire.

Incoming Corbett Administration Favors Ending adultBasic

Plan will likely add thousands to the ranks of the uninsured

The clock is ticking on a critical health insurance program that provides nearly 42,000 Pennsylvanians with affordable health coverage.

Pennsylvania’s adultBasic insurance program will end on February 28 unless swift action is taken to resolve a funding shortfall. The Commonwealth is preparing to send coverage termination notices to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who rely on adultBasic, which provides affordable health insurance for working individuals.

The situation reached a critical point this week when Governor-elect Tom Corbett’s transition team signaled support for a plan that would allow adultBasic to lapse. Those who lose their insurance would be given the option of enrolling in “Special Care,” a more expensive health plan operated by the state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans.

“Special Care” was created by the Blues in 1992 as a low-cost, limited benefit health plan. Premiums are as much as 400% higher than adultBasic premiums and benefits are much more limited — restricting patients to four doctor visits per year and covering only catastrophic hospital care and limited outpatient procedures.

This is bad news for many of the Pennsylvanians enrolled in adultBasic — like Roseann Davis, a mother of two from Bucks County who suffers from multiple conditions, including Crohn's disease, colitis and glaucoma. She termed the plan — with its bigger price tag and more limited benefits — “a death sentence” for her.

For the past five years, the state’s Blue Cross plans have contributed funding toward adultBasic as part of their charitable mission, but that funding agreement ended on December 31, 2010. Despite making those contributions, the Blues saw their cumulative surpluses increase from $3.5 billion in 2002 to $5.6 billion in 2009 — growing more than two-and-a-half times faster than wages in Pennsylvania.

During the gubernatorial campaign, Tom Corbett said he supported a six-month extension of adultBasic, which would keep the program funded through June 2011. That would have given the new administration time to decide what to do about the expiration of the Blues’ funding agreement. But in recent news reports, Corbett transition spokesman Kevin Harley has said adultBasic is “not sustainable.” In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story this week Mr. Harley said: “There's no funding for it. If there's no funding for it, the program doesn't exist.”

The Blues could fully fund adultBasic, without any state funds, with less than 3% of their combined surpluses. Rather than taking away affordable health insurance for the nearly 42,000 Pennsylvanians enrolled in adultBasic, policymakers should require the Blues to continue their contributions to adultBasic to fulfill their charitable mission and preserve their tax-exempt status. Legislation that would have extended the insurance assessment through 2014 was considered in the state House last year.

The issue has prompted a dispute between the outgoing Rendell administration and incoming Corbett administration, but this political bickering overlooks the core of the issue. Pennsylvania can sustain adultBasic, with tobacco settlement dollars, continued assessments on the Blues under the Community Health Reinvestment Agreement and allocating other state dollars, to maintain this critical health insurance lifeline.
If you’re interested in taking action in support of adultBasic, our partner organization, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, has put together an action page here and a petition already signed by more than 4,000 people.

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