PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For months, Gov. Tom Corbett has said no to expanding the state’s Medicaid program under the affordable care act – known as Obamacare.

“We can not afford to expand the federal Medicaid program,” Corbett said. “It is an entitlement that is unsustainable.”

Corbett worried that while the federal government pays 100 percent of the expanded program now, it would drop to 90 percent in a few years, leaving a big tab for state taxpayers.

So Corbett proposed using federal dollars to allow 520,000 citizens to buy private health insurance and require them to pay up to a $25 premium and, if unemployed, show proof of job searching.

“It preserves the safety net for those who need it most and provides private coverage for newly eligible Pennsylvanians and a pathway to independence,” Corbett said.

The real question is whether the Obama administration will buy what Corbett is selling. At least two other states – Iowa and Arkansas – have offered similar proposals. But so far the feds haven’t said either yes or no.

The state Democratic party reacted quickly, saying, “After months of delay, Tom Corbett proposed a weak half-measure that will continue to make it harder for Pennsylvanians to get the care they need while giving a handout to insurance companies.”

While politics plays into Corbett’s decision to offer his own plan, health consultant Jim Mctiernan says it’s an approach worth considering.

“I think it’s a reasonable approach to insure people who are currently not insured,” he said, “and to sustain it not for one, two or three years, but to sustain it over the long run. Whether it works or not, time will tell.”

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