WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf recently sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey about the impact of proposed federal health care cuts and loss of consumer protections.
Wolf’s letter is a follow-up to a personal conversation the two had in May.
“In this health care debate, we must ensure Pennsylvania’s seniors, parents and patients are being heard in Washington, D.C.,” Wolf said about the letter in an emailed news release.
Wolf said the impact on senior and disabled Pennsylvanians from cuts to Medicaid would be devastating. He said nearly every family stands to be hurt by the dismantling of consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act.
Wolf’s letter shares four stories of Pennsylvanians who contacted him with their concerns about Washington’s direction on health care:
• Michael from Allison Park has a grandson with special needs who has been able to maintain a high quality of life because of the services he receives through Medicaid.
• Annette from New Hope has worked hard all her life, and struggles to make ends meet, but has been able to access preventive care because of ACA subsidies. However, under the AHCA, she does not believe she’ll be able to afford care any longer.
• Johnathan from Beaver says his parents have been able to purchase a health care plan that fits their needs because of the ACA. This coverage meant his father could receive treatment for pre-cancerous polyps — treatment he might not be able to afford under the cost shifts included in the AHCA.
• Tasha from Pittsburgh underwent corrective heart surgery that was covered under ACA, but now is terrified about what this pre-condition will mean if changes are not made to the current version of the reform bill.
“To be frank, I am extremely concerned with the direction of the conversation in Congress, and the impact it may have on Pennsylvanians’ access to affordable and adequate care — an undoubtedly vital service,” Wolf wrote to Toomey. “Scaling back consumer protections and disrupting a fragile insurance market would eliminate or diminish coverage for millions of our neighbors.”
Wolf said the proposed caps and cuts imposed on Medicaid would be particularly harmful for Pennsylvania’s aging population, and would leave the commonwealth scrambling to maintain coverage for kids and the disabled.
“To that end, I urge you to reconsider your recent call for even steeper cuts in federal support for this critical program,” Wolf told Toomey. “Any new proposal should not take us backward, where too many Americans sought treatment in emergency rooms, and the rest of us paid for that care through higher premiums. Rather, changes should focus on making health care more affordable, more sustainable, and more accessible.”
In the letter, Wolf offered the federal government some suggestions on improving health care delivery and markets:
• Follow through on the Trump administration’s promise of increased flexibility for states to design programs that meet their specific needs.
• Repeal the Institutions for Mental Disease exclusion, which limits federal financial participation on stays in an IMD to no more than 15 days. IMDs encompass more than 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s inpatient drug and alcohol treatment providers.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.
Sen. Toomey’s response to Wolf’s letter
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, issued to following response Tuesday to Gov. Tom Wolf’s letter:
“ObamaCare has caused health care premiums and deductibles to skyrocket and choices to dwindle. In Pennsylvania, premiums went up 32 percent just last year and 40 percent of individuals reside in areas with only one insurance carrier on the exchange. It is more urgent than ever that we repeal and replace Obamacare with health insurance that will be affordable, accessible, and in which Pennsylvanians can make decisions about their health rather than government bureaucrats.
“Unfortunately, Governor Wolf’s letter is very mistaken as it mischaracterizes the reforms that Republicans are trying to achieve.
“The facts are the federal government has long provided 52 percent of every dollar spent on Medicaid coverage in Pennsylvania for the traditional eligibility categories of the low-income aged, disabled, pregnant women, and children. The state government has been responsible for paying the other 48 percent.
“ObamaCare created an entirely new eligibility category for which the federal government previously provided no assistance – abled-bodied, childless adults – and reimbursed states for health care provided to this category at a higher level (100 percent in 2016, eventually phasing down to 90 percent).
“Republicans have proposed maintaining this basic eligibility for the Medicaid program for able-bodied, childless adults. States would have to pay the conventional share they pay for every other Medicaid beneficiary, which in Pennsylvania is approximately 48 percent. However, states would remain free to decide whether to cover this category of their residents.
“Thus, when Governor Wolf suggests that this reform will “eliminate this benefit for low-income, hard-working individuals across our state,” he is implying that he will discontinue their coverage, since federal eligibility would be codified under this proposal.
“It is perplexing that Governor Wolf emphasizes the importance of this Medicaid expansion but may not be willing to have the state government pay its share at 48 cents on the dollar.”