CLS Statement Opposing HB59
CLS Statement Opposing HB59
Update: October 19, 2017
Today, Governor Wolf vetoed House Bill 59, which would require Pennsylvania to request federal permission to impose work requirements for certain Medicaid recipients, and to cut needed health benefits.
Kristen Dama, a Supervising Attorney at Community Legal Services, said, “We strongly support today’s veto of House Bill 59. The veto ensures that Pennsylvanians have the health coverage they need to get and stay healthy, so they can work and support their families.”
Update: October 5, 2017
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 59 by a vote of 116 to 78. House Bill 59 is deeply harmful to the Pennsylvanians who rely on Medicaid for health coverage.
Kristen Dama, a Supervising Attorney at Community Legal Services, said, “We are disappointed that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted yesterday to create new barriers for life-saving Medicaid benefits. House Bill 59 would make it harder for Pennsylvania families to get and stay healthy.”
House Bill 59 would require Governor Wolf to request federal permission to impose work requirements for certain Medicaid recipients, and to cut needed health benefits.
These work requirements are a bad fit for Pennsylvania because:
- They ignore the fact that a majority of Medicaid recipients are working or looking for work. According to Pennsylvania Department of Human Services data, 58% of enrollees in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion are working. Three-fourths of Medicaid expansion enrollees live in working families. Enrollees who are not currently working report that they are looking for work, caring for family members, attending school, or facing barriers like disabilities or domestic violence.
- They would waste limited tax dollars. A work requirement would force Pennsylvania’s Medicaid offices to collect and process new paperwork for hundreds of thousands of enrollees. Due to underfunding, offices struggle to keep up with paperwork already, and enrollees regularly lose benefits due to paperwork problems. A work requirement would waste taxpayer money and lead to interruptions in Medicaid coverage.
- They would harm people in substance use disorder treatment. A Senate amendment to House Bill 59 made the work requirement stricter, so many people in substance use disorder treatment would be required to work or lose their Medicaid coverage. Medicaid is a primary insurer for people seeking treatment for opioid addiction, and the work requirement would push many people out of treatment.
Governor Tom Wolf has pledged to veto House Bill 59.
Dama added, “We strongly support Governor Wolf’s plan to veto House Bill 59. A veto will ensure that Pennsylvanians can get the medical coverage they need so they can work and support their families.”
Update: July 27, 2017:
Today, the Senate voted to play politics with the health of Pennsylvania's Medicaid recipients. House Bill 59 would require Pennsylvania's overloaded County Assistance Offices to verify work status of 1.6 million Pennsylvanians, a majority of whom are working or in working households.
These new requirements would lead to loss of benefits, not from noncompliance, but from red tape that costs taxpayer dollars without moving people into work.
The Senate also directed Pennsylvania to seek new cuts in benefits. These cuts would be penny wise and pound foolish, potentially limiting access to inexpensive preventive care, making Pennsylvanians sicker while pushing them to more expensive treatments.
CLS urges the House to reject these measures, and, if necessary, we call on Governor Wolf to veto any bill that would try to balance the budget at the expense of Pennsylvania's working families, individuals with disabilities, and seniors who rely on Medicaid for life and health saving medical care.
Update: July, 11 2017: Today, the PA House passed House Bill 59, 102-91. Now, the bill moves to the PA Senate.
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania House Rules Committee approved an amendment to House Bill 59. The amendment would create new red tape for the children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities that rely on Pennsylvania's Medicaid program.
On behalf of our clients, we at Community Legal Services are particularly concerned that the amendment would require the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to pursue a federal "waiver" of Medicaid rules to impose work requirements and other barriers to coverage for Pennsylvanians.
A federal waiver solves nothing, while creating new problems. According to very recent data from DHS, almost 60% of Pennsylvania's 715,000 Medicaid expansion recipients are working, and many more are in households with family members who work. And more than 50% of all adult Medicaid recipients under 65 are working – including 18% of recipients with documented, long-term disabilities. Medicaid recipients who aren’t working are retired, in school, looking for work, or dealing with chronic illnesses.
Medicaid work requirements would force DHS to create a huge government apparatus to monitor the work activity or inability to work of 1.6 million Pennsylvanians, wasting state dollars without necessarily moving anyone into the labor force. This new red tape would create new barriers to keeping Medicaid for people who are going through tough times and need coverage to preserve their health, serving as a "back door" cut to Medicaid coverage.
To learn more about why waivers are the wrong choice for Pennsylvania, please see CLS's issue brief on the topic, here.