Connecting the Dots – Drops in Employer Based Coverage, Medicaid failures and Less Children Insured spells trouble for the Governor’s “Healthy PA”

There has been a trend over the last decade in Pennsylvania where fewer children have employer-based health coverage and more children have moved to public coverage.  Unfortunately, over the past two years the state has taken action to remove nearly 100,000 children from Medical Assistance—and nearly a third of them live in southeastern PA.  This has led to a frightening fact: according to a recently released study by The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), a higher percentage of Pennsylvania’s kids were uninsured in 2012 than in 2013.

HAP reports that “the number of Pennsylvanians covered by private, employer-based plans hit an all-time low of 59.5 percent in 2012.”  Meanwhile, from August 2011 to September 2013, there was a net reduction of 93,000 Pennsylvania children from Medical Assistance.  Almost 29,000 of them from southeastern PA.

Alarmingly, this is anew trend in Pennsylvania.  In the five months between August and December 2011, there was a drop of more than 88,000 children from Medical Assistance.  This many children haven’t been removed from Medical Assistance since 1997’s welfare reform, after which, tens of thousands of kids were eventually reinstated.  At the same time, Pennsylvania had the largest reduction (almost 10%) in Medicaid enrollment for children, families and pregnant women.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, that drop was almost three times larger than the state with the second largest reduction.

So what’s the reasoning for the draconian cuts from Medical Assistance? News reports revealed that many of the cuts “turned out to involve paperwork that [advocates] say DPW lost – sometimes repeatedly, even when clients had receipts – or that had never been sent in the first place. Roughly two out of three people cut were dropped for missing or incomplete paperwork.  The official numbers don’t count an additional 23,000 children whose benefits were cut and eventually restored retroactively, often with legal help. But poorer people may be less likely to call a lawyer, and child advocates believe thousands have no idea they are now uninsured”. 

In a cruel bit of irony, this comes at the same time that Governor Corbett touts his Healthy PA Plan, which proclaimed, “No child in Pennsylvania should be without health care.”  In fact just last month, the Governor said his goal is to “insure all children in Pennsylvania”.  We couldn’t agree more with that goal, but actions speak louder than words and over the last few years it’s become harder for PA children to get health insurance.  Every child in Pennsylvania has the right to medical coverage; we need to work together to reverse the trend of the last decade, toward a day when there are no uninsured children in the state.  And the first thing we need to do is make sure no one is removed from Medical Assistance who truly needs it.