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CLS Statement Opposing HB59

Public Benefits

CLS Statement Opposing HB59

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.