Hundreds rally for Medicaid expansion in Harrisburg
Cheryl Gannon, 52, works as a full-time home caregiver, but has no health insurance herself. She is among hundreds of people heading to Harrisburg today to rally for Medicaid expansion at the state level. Gov. Tom Corbett has not yet announced whether Pennsylvania will partake in the Medicaid extensions offered by the Affordable Care Act.
Gannon, who is from Washington County, finds her lack of insurance burdensome. She makes only $13,000 a year, but does not qualify for Medicaid and finds her bills are piling up.
"Last year I broke my ribs," Gannon said. "I missed about a month of work. I ended up owning thousands of dollars in health care bills. I still have not paid those off and have no idea how I will."
If the governor decided to extend coverage, working Pennsylvanians who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line would qualify for Medicaid. The federal government has pledged to cover any and all cost of expansion through 2017, and 90 percent after that.
Gov. Corbett remains anxious about the cost of expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania. According to the governor's spokeswoman, he hopes that the Obama Administration will be flexible with the state. The acting secretary for the Pa. Department of Public Welfare, Beverly Mackereth, will meet with federal officials next week and is running cost analyses of different models.
Gannon is worried that her lack of coverage comes to bear on both her health and the health of the patients for whom she cares. Right now she takes care of wheelchair-bound man named Ronald who might otherwise have to go to a nursing home.
"As a caregiver, it's critical for me to get access to healthcare," Gannon said. "Right now if I get sick or have a medical concern, I need to work anyway. That is not good for me or Ronald. It puts both of us in jeopardy."
Gannon is hopeful for the outcome of the rally, titled "Lives on the Line."
"Let's get this money spent wisely. Let's put it out to the people that can use it and deserves it as far as the Medicaid expansion goes."
In keeping with the rally's message, advocates hope to put a face to the people who need to qualify for Medicaid. They will hang a clothesline on the Capitol's back steps with more than 150 photos of those who would be eligible statewide after expansion.
If Medicaid is not extended, Gannon will face more of the same.
"When I hurt myself or whatever the case may be, I just have to go back to the emergency room and just keep on owing thousands and thousands of dollars because I can't afford it," Gannon said. "I keep on getting bills in the mail, bill after bill after bill, and I just keep on filing them."
The rally will start at 1pm and is an effort of the Cover the Commonwealth Campaign, a group of organizations working to get PA policymakers on board with Medicaid expansion. The Campaign estimates that under the new policy, 700,000 people in total would be eligible for Medicaid statewide.