Yes We Can: Extend AdultBasic

Posted by By at 15 February, at 08 : 56 AM Print

The working poor don’t buy or sell newspapers.

Nobody want’s to read, text or talk about uninsured Pennsylvanians. It’s easier and more convenient to blame this faceless mass for their own circumstances.

But we devour reports and broadcasts on the dark specter of “Obama Care,” physicians sprinting across the border in flocks, and the evils of taxing a public health menace like cigars. And, these are serious public policy issues worthy of an extended debate.

We are no longer a culture that can focus our attention long enough to muster the necessary resources to prevent or defeat public health epidemics. We’d rather cast a vote for the next “Idol.”

Unfortunately, we’re also adept at ignoring human suffering and emerging public health challenges. Crippling insurance rates, surging diabetes trends, obesity epidemics, Veterans’ post stress syndrome, senior abuse and heartbreaking dilemmas associated with terminally ill Americans do not drive advertising dollars or emote on the blogosphere.

Marketplace theory has the luxury of casually dismissing the reality of blood and guts. Here’s another silent stalker we’d prefer to ignore: The demise of adultBasic health care for low-income Pennsylvanians.

Most folks are vaguely aware of what this program is and who it benefits. In June of 2001, the Health Investment Insurance Act (Act 77) was signed into law. The initiative sought to use the proceeds of the state’s tobacco settlement to improve the health of low-income and working Pennsylvanians.

According to the Department of Insurance, the state is expected to receive just under $11 billion over a quarter century from the tobacco settlement. The single largest component of Act 77 provides money to pay for health insurance for uninsured Pennsylvanians between 19 to 65. This component – adultBasic – is administered by the Insurance Department.

Governor Tom Ridge proposed to dedicate 40% of the funding for basic health insurance up to 100,000 uninsured adults and subsidized Medicaid coverage up to 10,000 disabled adults to enable them to work without losing coverage. Mr. Ridge’s’ plan envisioned a model similar to the Children’s Health Insurance Program that included partnerships with private health insurers.

Somebody better tell am radio nation that Tom Ridge is a socialist.

Blue Cross Northeastern PA acknowledged that adultBasic, “… is intended to provide transitional health insurance for adults who either have incomes below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, who may have jobs that do not include health benefits or who are between jobs.”

Sounds like a win-win for Pennsylvania and Blue Cross. Just ask the 45,927 Pennsylvanians who participate in the adultBasic Program.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield agreed to help fund the program via the Community Health Reinvestment Agreement from 2005 through 2009. The Blues have stated that they spent $424 million on community health services during this period.

The Blues are “crying the blues” and want out, but their surplus has grown to over $1 billion during the term of the Agreement.

The Rendell Administration and the Blues agreed to a temporary extension until June 30, 2011. According to Independence Blue Cross, “This gives the commonwealth sufficient time to plan for and identify sustainable funding for adultBasic after July 1, 2011.”

In the meantime, approximately 350,000 Pennsylvanians are on the waiting list for AdultBasic. That’s a helluva doughnut hole. The Pennsylvania Health Access Network wants to extend the Agreement through 2014. That plan is affordable based on the existing paradigm that combines tobacco settlement revenue with the surplus the Blues have on-hand.

More than 60% of the 880,000 uninsured adults in Pennsylvania are working. These are real people with real faces.

This is not the time to cut the life line for basic health insurance for the working poor. We must commit to extend adultBascic beyond July 1, 2011.

(Want to learn more about Adultbasic, then click on Rock The Capital.)

This post was written by:
- who has written 390 posts for Rock The Capital
Eric J. Epstein is RocktheCapital‘s coordinator and a community advocate for good government for over 25 years. Mr. Epstein is also Chairman of the Three Mile Island Alert, Inc., a safe-energy organization founded in 1977; President of EFMR Monitoring Group, Inc., a non-profit economic development corporation established in 1977, and Chairman of the Stray Winds Area Neighbors (SWAN), a smart growth association organized in 2005. Mr. Epstein was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Humanities at PSU-Harrisburg (1992-1999) and co-authored the Dictionary of the Holocaust, which was released by Greenwood Press (1997) - Email Eric Epstein

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