HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – An expansion of Medicaid eligibility under a 2010 landmark federal health care law would boost the state’s finances by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, the Pennsylvania Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analysts said Tuesday.
The report echoes the conclusions of previous studies sponsored by health care groups that support a Medicaid expansion. It also undercuts one of the primary concerns of Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who has said he is not ready to support a Medicaid expansion for fear of the cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers.
The report was requested by Senate Democrats, whose leadership supports a Medicaid expansion. It was produced by the Independent Fiscal Office, whose creation in 2011 was spearheaded by Senate Republicans.
Boosting the eligibility limits of Medicaid also would mean health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who are uninsured.
The fiscal office’s report said an influx of billions of dollars in federal Medicaid subsidies to cover more people will cut some existing state health care costs and spur higher tax collections from medical providers.
The result would bring hundreds of millions of dollars extra per year into state coffers and an eight-year total of more than $3 billion beginning in 2014, when the federal government would begin sending payments for the Medicaid expansion, the fiscal office’s report said.
Besides his concern over the expansion’s cost to taxpayers, Corbett has warned that the federal government cannot necessarily be trusted to follow through on its promises to send money to the states. As attorney general in 2010, Corbett unsuccessfully sued in the federal courts to throw out the law.
Still, his administration has continued to study the matter after meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this month. On Monday, he told a radio interviewer that he has “no timetable” to wrap up that analysis.
So far, the Corbett administration has produced no analysis that looks at the cost of a Medicaid expansion or any resulting economic benefit. Instead, the administration has estimated an eight-year cost of $4.1 billion, a figure that doesn’t include higher tax collections and counts costs associated with other requirements of the 2010 federal health care law.
Corbett, who is running for re-election next year, is under pressure to go along with a Medicaid expansion. Hospitals executives, top Democratic lawmakers, labor unions, the AARP, religious leaders and advocates for the poor are in favor of it.
An expansion appears to have good prospects in the Republican-controlled Legislature, which would need to approve it.
Although many Republican lawmakers are staying quiet about the matter, fewer than 40 Republicans out of 203 lawmakers in House are co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit a Medicaid expansion. If every Democratic lawmaker supported an expansion, a dozen House Republicans and three in the 50-member Senate would be needed to vote yes to approve it.