State Senate approves Medicaid work requirement |

State Senate approves Medicaid work requirement

Wesley Venteicher
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
The Pennsylvania State Capitol on Nov. 19, 2015, seen from State St. in Harrisburg.

The state Senate passed a bill Thursday that would impose work requirements on people enrolled in Medicaid.

Senators amended the bill, which passed the House two weeks ago , and sent it back to the House for another vote, according to vote information on the General Assembly website. If it passes the House, it would require the approval of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to become law. Wolf has said he opposes the measure.

The Senate amendments removed a provision that would have imposed premiums on families that make about $250,000 per year — well above standard income eligibility thresholds — but qualify for Medicaid because of their children’s severe disabilities. The amendments also eliminated a provision that would have prevented people from switching among the Medicaid managed care plans that administer the program’s benefits.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Republican caucus did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A House Republican spokesman has said changes are needed in the state-federal program — one of the costliest programs in the indebted state’s budget — to save money. The spokesman said a work requirement would promote self-sufficiency and save money over time.

Consumer groups oppose the work requirement, noting that Department of Human Services figures show 58 percent of Pennsylvanians who qualify for Medicaid through a state expansion of the program are employed. Among people who qualify under traditional guidelines — which are tighter and take disabilities into account — 51 percent are employed, according to the DHS data.

Antoinette Kraus, director of Philadelphia-based consumer group Pennsylvania Health Access Network, said she is concerned the proposal could get caught up in budget negotiations and be passed despite Wolf’s opposition.

“It’s a very problematic piece of legislation that will result in folks losing benefits and creating more red tape,” Kraus said. “And it’s just a vehicle that’s going to hurt already working Pennsylvanians and add more costs in the long run.”

The measure passed the Senate on a 35-15 vote , with support from most Republicans and a few Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.

Western Pennsylvania Republican Sens. Guy Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills, Elder Vogel of New Sewickley and Randy Vulakovich of Shaler voted in favor of the bill.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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