Politics & Government

Future of ACA remains unclear for Pennsylvanians

DePasquale nmark@centredaily.com

The end of open enrollment for insurance plans covered under the Affordable Care Act is Tuesday, but as Congress prepares to make changes to the legislation, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale vowed to continue their support for provisions of the legislation that protect Pennsylvanians.

Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, the uninsured rate in the state has dropped from 10.2 to 6.4 percent resulting in more than 1.1 million people gaining coverage statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

Of the more than 1.1 million people insured, more than 400,000 signed up for individual plans, which includes about 3,400 Centre County residents. Statewide, 700,000 people have received coverage as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf’s expansion of Medicaid under the ACA in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We need to make changes to the ACA to stabilize the market, but we need to keep the provisions of the law that have helped so many Pennsylvanians have access to affordable health insurance,” Miller said.

Miller added that government subsidies are available for individuals with income up to $47,580 and families of four or more up to $97,200. If the subsides are applied, DHHS estimates three-fourths of returning ACA marketplace members will be able to choose a plan that costs $100 per month or less.

Following Wolf’s expansion of Medicaid, almost 63,000 new enrollees accessed drug and alcohol treatment in the first year. Miller said the expanded coverage is essential to battle Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic, which took more than 3,500 lives statewide and 17 in Centre County in 2015.

Last week, Congressional Republicans attended a retreat in Philadelphia to discuss their legislation strategy for 2017. Prior to the retreat, Wolf wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan inviting him to visit a substance abuse disorder treatment facility. Ryan declined, according to a release from Wolf’s office.

On Monday, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale held a press conference to voice his disapproval of potential legislation eliminating Medicaid expansion suggested by U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

“Last week, I sounded the alarm about how eliminating the Medicaid expansion provision in the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize health care for more than 675,000 Pennsylvanians. Now, we know the threat is real,” DePasquale said in response to Goodlatte’s call to members of Pennsylvania’s Republican congressional delegation to make their voices heard on the issue.

“Voters deserve to know where these elected officials stand,” Goodlatte said.