As Gov. Tom Corbett prepares to deliver his budget address Tuesday morning, some state lawmakers are urging him to use the occasion to decide whether to open Pennsylvania's Medicaid program to more low-income residents.

 

The governor's office wouldn't comment Monday on whether the budget address will include a final decision on expanding Medicaid.

 

But Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says he doesn't think such an announcement is likely.

"We're still trying to get more information from the federal government over the full costs and reimbursement and terms of expansion," said Pileggi, R-Delaware.

Different groups produce different numbers as far as how many additional Pennsylvanians would be eligible for Medicaid under the expansion and what the state's own costs would be.

House Republicans are urging Corbett to reject it because they say it would mean additional state costs.
State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield County, says the funding promised by the federal government with an expansion of Medicaid would also mean additional regulations.

"The most serious responsibility we have as legislators is to be good, responsible fiscal stewards of the hard-earned tax money of our constituents that we've been asked to manage in a responsible way," he said. "As we're set to begin the budget process with the governor's budget address, this is going to be on the top of our minds."

Senate Democrats are in favor, arguing it will insure the state's neediest residents and grow jobs in the health-care sector.

Sen. Vincent Hughes, ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the trepidation about expanding Medicaid is predicated not on sound fiscal analysis, but on ideology

"This is $4 billion a year that is coming to the state. You don't have to put up any money for it, at least not for the first three years. All right?" said Hughes of Philadelphia. "And then when you do have to put up some money for it, it starts at a 5 percent, 95 percent match. The current Medicaid program is a 45-55 match."

The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs for the first three years, if expansion begins in 2014. After three years, the federal match would gradually reduce to cover 90 percent of the expansion's costs.