HARRISBURG – State Rep. Ronald Waters, D-Phila./Delaware, joined his colleagues during a Capitol news conference in calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to find funding to continue a program that provides low-cost insurance for about 40,000 uninsured working people and their families in Pennsylvania.
“In Philadelphia and Delaware counties, nearly 8,000 people are enrolled in adultBasic, and more than 94,000 are on a waiting list to get on the program,” Waters said. “These are hardworking individuals with jobs who now may not be able to afford health insurance. By ending this program we are placing more people on the list of the uninsured.”
The nine-year-old program, created by former Gov. Tom Ridge using tobacco settlement money, provides bare-bones health insurance for low-income adults who do not qualify for Medicaid and aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare. During the past six years, contributions from the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, which are tax-exempt and have a combined surplus of $5.6 billion, helped fund the plan.
But the agreement with the Blues expired Dec. 31, and the fund is expected to run out of money at the end of February. If the Blues continued to fund the program, it would cost them $150 million, or 2.6 percent of their surpluses.
The median household income for people on adultBasic is about $385 a week.
The average adultBasic monthly premium is $36, and does not include dental care or prescription drugs. The Corbett administration has said people who continue to meet the program’s income eligibility requirements can slide over to another low-cost health insurance plan, called Special Care, operated by the state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurers. Special Care’s premiums are several times more than adultBasic and offer less coverage.
“This program is not a hand out and it is not an entitlement,” Waters said. “Instead it is an opportunity for hardworking families to finally have access to an affordable health insurance plan that gives them the peace of mind in knowing that if they or their children become ill they are covered.
“Allowing this plan to expire, especially during the current times of economic uncertainty is nothing less than cold and callous. I am joining my colleagues in encouraging Governor Corbett to renew our commitment to strengthening Pennsylvania by giving our citizens the tools they need to be healthy and productive. It is imperative that the governor work with the Blues to find a reasonable contribution to continue the program.”
Last session, Waters voted for legislation that passed the House (H.B. 1) that would have ensured adultBasic was properly funded and expanded to provide coverage for even more families that need it. The waiting list across the state is 464,000. The state Senate refused to act on that legislation
State Representative W. Curtis Thomas
Public statement on Adult Basic, January 24, 2011
It is an honor for me to stand here alongside my colleagues today and call upon Governor Corbett to continue the Adult Basic program. Since it was first signed into law in 2001, the Adult Basic program has been a lifeline which offers affordable health insurance to the Commonwealth’s working poor. Across the Commonwealth over 41,000 men, women & children are enrolled in Adult Basic. These are hard working people with jobs who make just a little too much to qualify for Medicaid , but aren’t old enough for Medicare.
I am very concerned that Governor Corbett has proposed rolling current Adult Basic clients into the Blue Cross “Special Care” program . As I am sure the Governor knows, Adult Basic was created exactly as an alternative to the Special Care program which only allows 4 doctor visits per year! We are obviously in very challenging times, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that long-term economic health and economic growth of the Commonwealth cannot occur without access to adequate medical coverage. Too often when faced with tight budgets, we make cuts that disproportionately affect those neediest among us. This thinking is self-destructive and as elected officials we must find the courage to help working families rather than subject them to punitive cuts.
This issue is a defining moment for the type of leadership we can expect from our new Governor. Will Tom Corbett make cuts that hurt our working families who need help the most? Or will he find a way to continue funding Adult Basic and preserve much needed health coverage for more than 41,000 citizens from all parts of the Commonwealth?