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Press Statement on Passage of HB 59

October 5, 2017

HARRISBURG — House Republicans yesterday voted to approve 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 promise to veto this Bill:

“If it became law, the bill that was passed by state lawmakers in Harrisburg yesterday would make 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 waste 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.

Beyond creating additional administrative hurdles for Pennsylvanians seeking to access care, the bill would fast track cuts to benefits that could include: 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.

If the goal is to keep Pennsylvanians healthy and working, this Bill does the opposite. We applaud Governor Wolf for his promise to veto this harmful bill and for recognizing that any legislation that would waste state Medicaid dollars or create new hoops for families to jump through to keep their health care would hurt Pennsylvania.”

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. This amended version of HB59 was further amended and passed by the Senate in July and then returned to the House, where it passed yesterday by a margin of 116-78.

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.

Fifty eight percent of Medicaid Expansion enrollees are already working, and 3 in 4 have at least one full-time worker in the home, so adding new work requirements is simply a way to reduce enrollment by tripping people up with new layers of red tape. These changes will result in people losing the benefits and care that keeps them healthy enough to work.