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Moving Kids from CHIP to Medicaid is a False Argument for Delay

Leading child advocacy organizations joined forces today to urge Gov. Tom Corbett and the General Assembly to enact legislation expanding Medicaid for uninsured adults under 138 percent of the federal poverty level before they end their work this week.

A proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act is being prepared in a bipartisan effort by state senators, but the governor and other lawmakers are creating false roadblocks to stop this effort. Medicaid expansion proponents in the Senate understand the unprecedented opportunity for Pennsylvania to receive 100 percent federal payment for the expansion in coming years and only a 10 percent state liability for this important coverage beginning in 2020.

In addition, three recent Pennsylvania studies, including one conducted by the Independent Fiscal Office, confirm that accepting the federal funds to expand health coverage is an economic win for Pennsylvania. All three studies found that expanding Medicaid will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, create tens of thousands of jobs and generate an enormous boost to our economy.

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and Public Citizens for Children and Youth call upon policymakers to enact this important expansion before June 30th. Not only will the expansion benefit tens of thousands of uninsured adults, but it will help children.

Some policymakers, including the governor, are creating a needless obstacle to expansion efforts by requesting that children who are mandated by federal law to move from CHIP to Medicaid on Jan. 1, 2014, instead be allowed to stay in CHIP.

“Unlike the Medicaid expansion for uninsured adults, which is optional for states, moving kids from CHIP to Medicaid is not an option under federal law – it is a requirement,” noted Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “On January 1, 2014, children under 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be moved to the Medicaid program regardless of whether we expand Medicaid for adults in our state.”

Some state lawmakers and the governor have made repeated requests to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to stop the movement of Pennsylvania children from CHIP to Medicaid. The governor made his latest request just yesterday, despite already having been told repeatedly by HHS that there is no federal authority to waive this component of the Affordable Care Act and that the movement of children from CHIP to Medicaid is unrelated to Medicaid expansion for adults.

“Policymakers’ false arguments that Pennsylvania needs more information from the federal government about its request to move kids from CHIP to Medicaid are nothing more than a delay tactic,” said Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. “The feds have been clear: we have to move these kids, and budget deliberations have included the movement of state funds from CHIP to Medicaid to cover some of the costs.”

Allen Nussbaum, MD, president of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted: “Our groups have worked together and with many other health advocates since the first two cents of cigarette tax was dedicated to children’s health coverage in 1991 to ensure every Pennsylvania child has health insurance. We have made great headway, but we still have nearly 150,000 uninsured children in our state. Expanding Medicaid coverage will be an important step to insure more kids.”

The Georgetown Center for Children and Families estimates there are about 274,000 uninsured parents in Pennsylvania, and about 131,000 of those parents would qualify if the commonwealth were to expand Medicaid coverage. Research indicates covering low-income parents increases health insurance enrollment among eligible children, thereby reducing the number of children that are uninsured.

There is no reason to wait any longer. The legislature should approve - and the governor should sign - a Medicaid expansion measure into law in the next few days.

Contact: Michael Race, PA Partnerships for Children
717-236-5680, ext. 208

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