STATE – On Thursday Governor Tom Corbett and Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley announced the approval of Healthy PA initiative that focuses on Medicaid reform.

STATE – On Thursday Governor Tom Corbett and Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley announced the approval of Healthy PA initiative that focuses on Medicaid reform.

According to his website, Corbett is “committed to ensuring Pennsylvanians have increased access to quality, affordable health care.”

Healthy PA is a state-based plan that is meant to save taxpayers $4.5 billion over the next eight years. In a release it said the plan will also focus on the “unique healthcare needs of Pennsylvanians while rejecting the ObamaCare one-size-fits-all model.”

"Since his time as Attorney General, Tom Corbett has rejected the failed policies and federal healthcare takeover of the Obama administration," said Campaign Manager Mike Barley. "Governor Corbett's leadership was critical in providing states like Pennsylvania the flexibility to demand healthcare reforms that better serve the well-being of taxpayers and all Pennsylvanians."

The Corbett-Cawley administration states that Healthy PA will provide “hundreds of thousands” of Pennsylvanians health coverage
through the private market instead of expanding Medicaid, and delivers sweeping reforms to the current system.

Corbett's Healthy PA initiative has four main parts: improving access, ensuring quality, providing affordability and providing PA Health Options.

According to the release, Healthy PA institutes premiums and phases out co-payments for those above the federal poverty level and incentives for those who exhibit healthy behaviors and participate in job training and work-search with the ultimate goal of transitioning more individuals from government-paid health insurance to employer-paid healthcare.

It also explains that many costly plans were simplified to include better options for recipients while holding them accountable for their care.

Signs of favoritism

The Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) is one of the groups in favor of Healthy PA.

In a statement released Friday, PAFP said it is pleased with the Corbett administration and the federal government for agreeing on a plan “to expand health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania’s working poor.”

PAFP estimates the plan will affect around 600,000 Pennsylvanians.

PAFP said it plans to continue working with Corbett to ensure a “physician-coordinated, patient-centered medical home for every Pennsylvanian.”

“Pennsylvania’s family physicians are ready and able to care for the growing patient population in the Commonwealth,” the statement read.

It added PAFP is excited to continue working to tackle the complex issues of health reform.

“Many Pennsylvanians have been waiting a long time for an access point to the health care system,” said Douglas Spotts, MD, president of the PAFP. “Pennsylvania’s family physicians are eager to provide these patients with a medical home.”

Negative outcomes

While Healthy PA has seen its share of support, there are also different groups unhappy with the plan.

One of them is Americans for Prosperity in Pennsylvania (AFP).

In a statement released Friday, the APP expressed its disappointment with the plan.

“We are disappointed that, in the end, Governor Corbett was unable to bring true Medicaid reform to Pennsylvania,” said Beth Anne Mumford, state director of AFP. “While Medicaid reform is necessary to ensure a sound fiscal future, federal mandates under ObamaCare make it impossible for any state to implement meaningful reforms to the program.

“The so-called 'Private Option' contained in the Healthy PA plan is Medicaid expansion by another name.

“When an entity is told what products to offer, what to charge and who can receive those products it ceases being a private entity.”

She added Healthy PA will obligate Pennsylvanian taxpayers to higher long-term Medicare spending without meaningful reform at a time of ongoing and difficult budget challenges.

“Medicaid offers poor quality care to those who need it most,” Mumford explained. “Expanding a broken and overburdened system is the wrong solution for Pennsylvania.

“We should instead be seeking ways to identify healthcare reforms and health system innovations that can provide consumers with more marketplace choices to improve access to high quality care that meets their health needs at a lower cost.”

The AFP isn't the only one concerned about Healthy PA. In March a meeting was held to discuss the plan. It involved a group of physicians and advocates.

One of the common concerns among physicians and advocates is that “seniors, people with disabilities, and pregnant women will lose important services,” according to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN).

PHAN also stated Healthy PA “includes premiums and work requirements with unprecedented 'lock-out periods,' meaning vulnerable Pennsylvanians can lose their coverage if they cannot afford premiums or meet the proposed job search requirements.”

The network explained Pennsylvania is “missing the opportunity” to generate “$522 million in state budget savings” and start creating 35,000 good paying jobs, by “failing to expand” Medicaid under the ACA.

Another physician voiced his concern as well.

“There are low risk and high risk plans that would limit key medical services, such as radiology studies, lab studies and impatient hospital care,” said Dr. Adam Rafi Rom, a physician affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. “This will have a dramatic impact on how we'll be able to care for patients.

He added without these services, it will be dangerous and lead to more unpaid hospital bills.

“Podiatry and optometry will not be covered under the new plans of Healthy Pennsylvania,” Rom stated. “A lot of patients with uncontrolled or controlled diabetes, who need ongoing podiatry care, will not be able to get foot exams.”

He added optometrists will be able to do screenings in their office, but “most primary care doctors” won't be capable to do exams necessary to get glasses.

“We are already having trouble in Pennsylvania making sure services are protected,” Rom said. “These limits under Healthy PA will be causing long term problems.”

For more information on Healthy PA visit