Monday, October 15, 2012

Paging Dr. Corbett

After yo-yo-ing on whether or not to embrace his role as a leader in securing health care for every Massachusetts’ resident while he was governor, Mitt Romney has adopted the oft-Republican refrain that health care (like other issues when it suits them) should be firmly in state hands.

But what did Pennsylvanians do wrong? Why is health insurance more important for residents of the Bay State than the Keystone State based solely on the person at the helm? Last summer would 89,000 children in Pennsylvania have gotten cut from Medicaid if Mitt Romney were the governor of our Commonwealth?

But if comprehensive health care is a state issue as Mr. Romney insists, let’s look at what Dr. Corbett has prescribed for Pennsylvania.

Stage 1: Eliminate Affordable Health Care for working Pennsylvanians

Despite a campaign promising “developing a world-class work force” (evidently by decimating education funding), “promoting state parks and forests” (to multinational drillers, perhaps), and “improving our transportation infrastructure,” (seriously this is all on his campaign website!), Tom Corbett believed the first issue warranting his attention as governor was eliminating health coverage for over 40,000 working Pennsylvanians who were contributing to the cost of their insurance. (Not to mention extinguishing the hopes of the ½ million people on the plan’s waiting list).

Regardless of whether Gov. Corbett even had the authority to eliminate adultBasic, he had the ability, and that was just phase one in his Corbett (doesn’t) Care plan.

Stage 2: Cut 89,000 Children from Medicaid

According to Tom Corbett: it’s time to cut the fraud, waste and abuse that is crushing our state -- yep time to cut those freeloaders who are abusing Pennsylvania’s public programs -- all 89,000 of those kids living in poverty.

From August 2011 to January 2012, Corbett and his deputies directed the removal of 130,000 people from the Medicaid rolls. That’s a fairly atrocious number that sparked the attention of the feds which actually provide the guidance and jointly-fund Medicaid. Compounding the federal government’s insistence that the Corbett administration should revisit the rolls were the 89,000 kids who were cut. As of late May, the DPW Secretary still hasn’t accounted for where all the children who were cut disappeared to and why they no longer qualify.

Stage 3: Cut access to nutritious food

How can we really ensure health care costs go up for low income Pennsylvanians (which really means costs increase for all of us)? I suppose a cheaper option than distributing packs of cigarettes to people on street corners, is to jeopardize their access to nutritious food.

As if cutting or even holding budget line items like Farmer’s Market Coupons steady in a time of increased public need weren’t harmful enough, Gov. Corbett not to be outdone, decided to make access to food stamps more burdensome. The kicker is that by implementing an asset test, as the governor prescribed, actually costs the state (otherwise known as the taxpayers) more money.  This plan, which took effect in May, punishes people for collecting a modest savings that could help make ends meet in emergencies. You know – like every financial advisor would recommend.

In order to qualify for SNAP (food stamps) residents were already means tested, which means they could only earn 160% of the federal poverty level, about $35K a year for a family of four. The asset plan piles on the workload of the already task-saturated county assistance offices, which by the way have also seen the edge of the budget ax in recent years.

Stage 4: Collect a 5% income tax from the families with disabled kids

Candidate Corbett claimed to want to support Pennsylvanians with autism, however he approved a plan by a top deputy to implement a policy change to collect up to 5% of a family’s gross household income in the form of co-payments for medically necessary treatments for their disabled kids.

The policy was announced under the radar and bypassed formal review by the legislature and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Due to public outcry the plan is on hold for now, but when they tried to implement it, DPW in several cases didn’t even calculate a family’s income correctly, sometimes overestimating it by $100,000.

After considering just his first 22 months in office Corbett’s Health care plan doesn’t look promising for many of us. One Romney strategy Tom Corbett has adopted is tax breaks and less oversight for big business, now if he’d only embrace his approach to securing the health of residents of this Commonwealth ….