PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A state-run health insurance program that insures thousands of people in this region comes to an end at midnight.
And it could be the first of many state budget cuts pushed by Governor Corbett over the next few months to balance the state’s budget.
If you work and your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, that’s where AdultBasic comes in.
Originally funded with tobacco settlement dollars from the state and donations from Highmark and Blue Cross, AdultBasic has been a life-saver.
But Corbett says the state has run out of money for this program and that has many angry and worried.
The crowd chanted, “Save AdultBasic. Do the right thing. Save AdultBasic.”
They rallied in Market Square. Some are losing health insurance because Corbett says the state has no money for this program.
“We know this act of letting AdultBasic die is just the first of many more attacks to come on hard working families who are struggling every day to make ends meet and stay afloat in this economy,” Erin Gill of the PA Health Access Network told the crowd.
AdultBasic provides inexpensive health insurance for those who earn too much for the state’s Medicaid program or who are self-employed or have employers who do not provide insurance, like local artist Alison Zapata of Friendship.
“I’m pregnant at this time – three months pregnant. And at two months I found out that I was being…the AdultBasic program was being cut,” she told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano.
She’s not alone. AdultBasic covers over 11,000 people in the 10-county area with 100,000 on the local waiting list.
Nick Balandiat of Baldwin is on coumadin.
“If you take one pill in this country, you become uninsurable and AdultBasic was actually a Godsend to me when it was available. I could have my blood tested, and for me it’s like a life or death issue.”
Delano: “Have you met with Governor Corbett on this?”
“We have not. We’ve had trouble reaching Governor Corbett on this issue,” says Beth Heeb of the Consumer Health Coalition.
Consumer health advocates say Corbett has been inaccessible and insensitive.
“We’ve been just flooded with calls from individuals that are just beside themselves, and we have no option for them.”
Corbett met briefly with U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at the White House Monday morning. KDKA’s Jon Delano asked her, via satellite, whether the governor raised the AdultBasic issue.
“He did not.”
Sebelius says, under the president’s Affordable Care Act, everyone eligible for AdultBasic will get health insurance in 2014. But in the meantime, it’s up to the states.
“This bridge period is a tough time,” admits Sebelius. “We have given states extra resources. We’re trying to work around Medicaid eligibility and flexibility, but it was a choice in Pennsylvania to end this program.”
Now some state legislators have proposed ways to fund AdultBasic, and Corbett’s office says the governor may be open to some ideas.
In the meantime, Corbett says AdultBasic users should explore private insurance, but that usually costs three to five times the cost of AdultBasic.