Labor and healthcare advocacy groups are using this April Fool's Day to make a point: that Gov. Tom Corbett's decision to forego a federally funded expansion of Medicaid in Pennsylvania is, well, foolish.
Members of three groups — Working America, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network and the Consumer Health Coalition — plan to deliver 9,000 petitions to Corbett's office urging the administration to lower eligibility requirements for the federal program.
"Over 150,000 low-income Pennsylvanians have lost access to affordable healthcare" because of budget cuts to state programs, said Kim McMurray, state director for Working America's Pennsylvania division.
Many of those who lost their insurance when Pennsylvania eliminated its Adult Basic program would be covered under the proposed Medicaid expansion.
Under the 2009 Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will pay 100 percent of the cost of an expanded Medicaid program through 2016, and 90 percent thereafter.
But Corbett has been reluctant to opt in, citing concerns about Medicaid's longterm viability and the possibility that Pennsylvania may have to absorb unanticipated costs in the future. The governor will discuss those concerns in a meeting Tuesday with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Monday's demonstration is timed to lend urgency to that discussion. Organizers are also emboldened by the growing list of GOP governors who have reversed their positions on the Medicaid expansion.
"We're hopeful," McMurray said. "After the other Republican governors changed their minds and accepted the funds, it shows that there is this understanding that it's the right thing to do."
In addition to providing an estimated 340,000 low-income Pennsylvanians with healthcare coverage, proponents argue the Medicaid expansion would deliver a needed jolt to the state's economy. A RAND Corporation study released last week estimates a Medicaid expansion would generate $3 billion in new economic activity.