HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 8 Governor Edward G. Rendell today expressed strong disappointment that the General Assembly concluded its fall session without Senate approval of legislation to provide health coverage to uninsured Pennsylvanians. He urged legislators to continue working on the issue.
"The dogs of Pennsylvania will now have health care, but I can't say the same for the people of Pennsylvania," said the Governor, referring to passage of a bill to improve conditions in Pennsylvania's kennels. "The House passed a very good bill, but the Senate failed to act. It's cruel, wrongheaded, inappropriate and inexplicable."
In January 2007, Governor Rendell introduced Prescription for Pennsylvania, a comprehensive health care reform plan aimed at improving quality, increasing access and controlling cost in the health care system. The keystone of that plan was Cover All Pennsylvanians - a program to provide access to affordable health care coverage to more than 431,000 of the 767,000 uninsured Pennsylvania adults who were uninsured at that time.
Since then, the administration has offered numerous compromise proposals to meet legislative demands. In December 2007, after no legislative action, the Governor withdrew the Fair Share Assessment (a requirement that businesses not offering health coverage pay an assessment to help pay for CAP) and a new way to pay a part of the cost of CAP by using a surplus in the Health Care Provider Retention Account (HCPRA). HCPRA is the account funded by a 25 cent-per-pack cigarette tax that is used to help doctors, hospitals and other health care providers pay for their medical malpractice insurance.
In March 2008, the House of Representatives passed a modified version of CAP, called Pennsylvania Access to Basic Care, or PA ABC, which would have covered 272,000 adults.
The Senate did not debate the ABC proposal and did not address it as part of the 2008 budget negotiations. In June, the Senate Republican caucus released its own proposal for providing health care for the uninsured by expanding clinics to be served by volunteer physicians.
After a summer of few talks and no decision, the Governor met with Senate leadership in September to present yet another set of alternatives for consideration. That compromise covered only 242,000 people. At the request of the Senate Republicans, the compromise eliminated any new cigarette taxes to fund the uninsured program, removed coverage for small business and removed some of the insurance benefits.
On Oct. 6, Governor Rendell sent a letter outlining the efforts to reach a bipartisan compromise agreement.
The Senate responded expressing a desire to work together toward resolving the health care issue and proposed eliminating the adultBasic waiting list.
Within three hours, the administration responded positively, proposing yet another compromise which would use fewer resources and scale back benefits, but still provide coverage to 162,000 Pennsylvanians by year five, without new taxes and leaving a growing surplus of $600 million in the HCPRA.
The Senate counter-offered a plan for $50 million for the uninsured through the current adultBasic coverage, which does not include prescription drug or behavioral health coverage. The Senate proposal would cover only 14,000 people - currently there are 118,000 people on the adultBasic waiting list. It does not include seeking hundreds of millions in federal funds that are available to help cover the uninsured.
For more information about Governor Rendell's health care reform agenda, visit www.rxforpa.com.
The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit his Web site at: www.governor.state.pa.us.
CONTACT Chuck Ardo 717-783-1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor