The LuLac Edition #1609, May 24th, 2011
SAVING ADULT BASIC
Since the AdultBasic Health Care plan went away in February, one entity, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network has been trying to find a way to establish an adequate successor to the program. As you are aware, on Feb. 28th, 42,000 of our neighbors in Pennsylvania lost their adultBasic health coverage. While the coverage wasn’t fancy, it was a critical lifeline to thousands of hardworking people across the state.
AdultBasic offered coverage to working Pennsylvanians who were caught in the middle: those who made too much to qualify for Medicaid but far too little to afford coverage on the private market. It made sure that working people didn’t have to fall through the cracks of our broken health care system by offering
lower-income Pennsylvanians the chance to purchase basic health coverage at a rate they could afford.
AdultBasic allowed people who were doing everything right—working, doing their best to make ends meet—to not have to live in constant fear of being wiped out financially by one accident or illness.
Unfortunately, Gov. Corbett chose to shut down the program earlier this year, despite having a dedicated funding stream under the Tobacco Settlement Act and despite multiple funding solutions proposed by advocates in the Legislature.
The loss of adultBasic has added 42,000 more people to the ranks of the state’s 1.2 million uninsured residents and has placed additional strains on the Commonwealth’s community health centers and hospital emergency rooms. Already overburdened health centers across the state have already seen an influx of newly uninsured patients and are struggling to meet the increased demand with already-thin resources.
To date, no viable solution for offering comparable coverage has been put in place. Governor Corbett has urged former adultBasic enrollees to sign up for Special Care, a private Blue Cross-Blue Shield plan that costs 400% more than adultBasic with severely limited benefits. For many if not most adultBasic subscribers, a catastrophic health insurance plan is not sufficient; these individuals, many who are struggling to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer, need regular doctors’ visits, regular diagnostic testing, and affordable prescriptions in order to remain healthy.
The simple reality is that the lives and livelihoods of the 42,000 Pennsylvanians who lost their coverage are now on the line. These folks are now staring down impossible choices every day—how long can I put off starting chemotherapy without risking the spread of my cancer? What if I get into an accident and I
can’t afford to pay out of pocket? Will I be there to see my children grow up if I get sick and can’t afford treatment?
These are choices that no American should have to make. And they’re the choices that no Pennsylvania resident who had adultBasic coverage should have to make, because the funding is there to establish a successor program, if the Legislature chooses to use the Tobacco Fund money as intended by law.
The Pennsylvania Health Access Network opposes the Governor’s short-sighted plan that has resulted not only in immeasurable anxiety and strife for those who lost their coverage, but one that will also raise taxes for all Pennsylvanians and raise premiums for those with private and employer-based coverage, as the state is forced to absorb substantial costs in uncompensated care for the newly uninsured.
PHAN continues to mobilize patients,advocates, faith leaders, the small business community and providers to oppose Gov. Corbett’s plan to shift Tobacco Settlement Fund money away from programs that benefit the health of all Pennsylvanians. We support the current statutory language that allocates 30% of Tobacco Settlement dollars to adult health insurance programs including Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities and adultBasic or a successor program or programs.
PHAN will keep working to ensure that the voices of all Pennsylvanians are heard in this debate, and remains committed to working with lawmakers and those most directly impacted by the loss of adultBasic to establish a successor program with adequate benefits at a rate that’s truly affordable.
It appears that Pennsylvania's tax coffers are rebounding from the big recession. Tax receipts are now coming in at a brisk rate and it appears there might be about a half billion dollars extra in state revenues. Tom Corbett and the uber Conservative House want to set it aside and put it in a type of improvised rainy day fund. However the Senate wants to spend that money and possibly restore cuts to the State Education system. While this will not hold up the budget a la Ed Rendell, it will make for some lively (as lively as the state GP can get) debates.