2011-02-24 / Local & State

Corbett Warned To Delay Pa. HealthCare Plan’s End

By Marc Levy

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – An advocate for the poor is warning Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration that it is violating federal law, as well as the state government’s own policy, by moving to kick about 41,000 low-income adults off a state-subsidized health care plan without first checking whether they are eligible for Medicaid.

Philadelphia-based Community Legal Services wrote this week to top Corbett administration officials to ask the state Insurance Department to delay the scheduled Feb. 28 end of adultBasic coverage until people who are also eligible for Medicaid can be identified and transferred into the program.

CLS lawyer Jonathan Stein said he believes the state is bound by a federal court ruling in 1994, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Insurance Department’s own policy to first see whether adultBasic enrollees are eligible for Medicaid, a state-federal program offering long-term health coverage for the poor and disabled.

“We’re saying to the state, ‘Look, you have easy access to the health records and who this population is. You should be able to, without any break in coverage, screen and enroll people seamlessly so they don’t go without one day of coverage and health access, and by that token, preserving the lives of people,’’’ Stein said.

Corbett administration officials did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

AdultBasic is bare-bones health insurance and doesn’t include dental care or prescription drugs. It is offered to low-income adults who generally make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and are too young to qualify for Medicare.

Stein said it is likely that more than half of adultBasic enrollees are eligible for Medicaid, including people with disabilities, pregnant women or women who have breast or cervical cancer.

Corbett, a Republican, has said adultBasic will run out of money Feb. 28 and that the cash-strapped state government cannot afford to continue it. The Republican controlled Legislature has not shown a willingness to seriously consider extending adultBasic before coverage ends, either. Rather, Corbett and Republican lawmakers have blamed former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell for running the 9-year-old program into the ground, saying he bankrupted the program by relying too heavily on money from the state’s nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurers, keeping premiums too low and enrolling too many people.

Corbett’s administration has said adultBasic enrollees can get coverage from the Special Care programs run by the Blues plans. Those programs, begun in 1992, offer monthly premiums for low-income adults and families at rates of at least several times the $36 average adultBasic monthly premium.

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