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PHAN Statement on Veto of HB 59

October 19, 2017

HARRISBURG — Today Governor Wolf vetoed HB 59, a bill that would force Pennsylvanians to jump through additional hoops in order to keep their Medicaid coverage. Antoinette Kraus, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network released the following statement applauding Governor Tom Wolf for his veto of the Bill:

“We applaud Governor Wolf and his decision to veto HB 59. The Governor’s actions helped protect hundreds of thousands of hardworking Pennsylvanians from unecessary hurdles to stay healthy and keep working.

If it had become law, HB 59 would have made it harder for working families, older adults, people with chronic health conditions, and people suffering from substance use disorders to keep and use their coverage. It would also have wasted already-limited state resources on expanding state bureacracy. Pennsylvanians don’t need more hoops to jump through to get and stay covered; they need Medicaid to stay healthy so they can work, care for loved ones, and attend school.

The bill would also have fast tracked cuts to important benefits such as dental care, hospice care, physical and occupational therapy, clinic-based mental and behavioral health care, and more. These benefits are covered for a reason: they keep people healthy and allow them to live independently. Cutting these benefits and making it harder for people battling substance use disorders to keep their coverage is especially irresponsible as Pennsylvania attempts to address the worst opioid crisis it has ever faced.

Governor Wolf’s decision to expand Medicaid has helped over 700,000 individuals access health coverage over the past few years and has benefitted Pennsylvania economically while most of the costs have been covered by the federal government. His veto of HB59 means that Pennsylvania families will continue to have security and peace of mind knowing they can access the care they need when they need it the most. ”


Some members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives used amendments to hijack an adoption bill (HB59) and propose harmful changes to Medical Assistance that would cut benefits and reduce enrollment in the program. The bill was passed by both the House & Senate and then vetoed by Governor Wolf.

HB 59 is not a budget-related bill that must be passed to complete the budget.; it is a policy bill with a small budget component.

A coalition of 173 Pennsylvania-based organizations signed on to a letter opposing the Bill. The letter is available here.

HB59 would weaken Medicaid by: 1) imposing new bureaucratic work requirements for non-disabled, non-elderly, non-pregnant adults (but not exempting people with serious conditions like cancer or MS, or those in active drug and alcohol treatment or those who are homeless); 2) fast-tracking cuts to “non-essential” benefits, like dental, vision, mental health and behavioral health clinic based services, and hospice care; and 3) paving the way for additional cuts in the future.

Work requirements hold people’s ability to access healthcare hostage under the guise of encouraging people to work toward no longer needing the welfare benefits they currently receive.

  • The punitive nature of work requirements fails to recognize that the large majority of households receiving Medicaid (72%) are working already, and that while 55% of individual recipients are working, an additional 40% of individual recipients are ill, disabled, in treatment, caring for children or older family members, in school, or retired, meaning that only a small percentage (5%) are able to work.
  • A waiver for work requirements is assumed to save the Commonwealth money while not recognizing the significant administrative costs of implementing work requirements that should only be targeted at a very small number of individuals.
  • Proponents of HB 59 have failed to state clearly that people who are ill, disabled, in treatment, caring for children or older family members, in school, or retired are excluded from the work requirement.
  • More people without coverage increases long term costs for untreated chronic health conditions, uncompensated care, decreased economic output, lost jobs, and broken families.

Medicaid Expansion has been an overall economic benefit for PA. More than 90 percent of Medicaid Expansion costs have been paid for by the federal government while the Commonwealth has received an economic benefit from increased federal funds, additional revenue, and economic benefit.

Medicaid is a health program and intervention for people who lack coverage. In 2016, only 48.5 percent of private sector establishments offer health insurance to employees. Getting a job does not also mean getting covered.