By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As more Americans sign up online for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, there is a growing envy among Pennsylvanians who would qualify for expanded Medicaid, but won’t get it come January.
James Beecher, 58, was laid off recently and says he needs health insurance and could get it if Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
“I don’t think it’s right,” he says, “hundreds of thousands of people are suffering.”
Last week, Governor Tom Corbett revealed the details of his alternative proposal to expanding Medicaid called, Healthy Pennsylvania. Under the Corbett proposal Beecher would likely be eligible for Medicaid, but he’d have to pay a $25-a-month premium and prove he’s searching for work.
“That’s a lot of money when you don’t have any,” he says.
Richard Weishaupt of Community Legal Services says the proposal adds a lot of red tape and limits access to healthcare. But those criticisms aside, even if all goes according to plan, Healthy Pennsylvania is unlikely to go into effect until 2015.
“What we’ve been saying all along is if you want to do a new experimental plan, do the regular Medicaid plan now for January 1, 2014 and then try to get permission to go to this experimental plan sometime in the future” he says, “but what Pennsylvania is saying is ‘we are not going to do anything now.'”
Corbett Spokesperson Christine Cronkright says it could take a while. She explains there’s a 30-day period for public hearings around Pennsylvania and then the comments must be incorporated into the Governor’s proposal. She says once the formal proposal is submitted to the federal government, there are negotiations and then a federal comment period before approvals are made. But Cronkright says– the Corbett administration is confident the plan will be approved.
“We are very happy with this plan,” she says, “and we’re hoping to get it approved as quickly as possible.”
Cronkright says exactly how long it will take is unclear since some states have obtained approval swiftly, while its taken much longer in others.
“We’ve been working very closely with [the federal government],” she says, “we did a lot of the work up front.”
But Beecher is doubtful that he’ll get healthcare anytime soon.
“It’s not even a plan, it’s just a proposal,” he says, “I just hope this isn’t a smoke screen to cause more delay.”
Cronkright says folks like Beecher are welcome to give feedback at public hearings and through webinars.
“We’d love to hear what Pennsylvanians think about the plan,” she says, “this is a very transparent process.”
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled in Philadelphia on January 3rd at the National Constitution Center.