Jul. 17, 2017

Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Last week, I joined with my colleagues in the state House in voting to approve legislation to ensure our Medicaid assistance program remains solvent and available to those who truly need it.

Every financially secure person who uses federal Medical Assistance and does not pay a small premium toward shoring up the system results in a person at or near poverty level not receiving the same Medical Assistance. At the same time, if a low-income person using Medicaid can work and contribute to society, they should.

Medicaid is one of the expensive items to carry year-to-year in the state budget, and the federal government will be ratcheting that assistance back as Congress attempts to get $20 trillion in federal debt under control. This means we need to start making up that money somewhere to keep vital programs solvent and asking people who are able to help pull the cart to do so instead of just riding in it is not unreasonable.

The specific changes require the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to seek a waiver from the federal Center for Medicaid Services to require reasonable work requirements for those who are physically and mentally able to. It would also require DHS to seek a waiver to require parents to pay premiums for children who qualify for Medicaid due solely to a medical diagnosis and not for income reasons. It would apply only to those making at least 1,000 percent of federal poverty level ($239,000 for a family of three). The fees would be established on a sliding scale, similar to how the Child Health Insurance Program works.

Pennsylvania’s current system bases eligibility for Medicaid assistance for children with disabilities on the child’s income, not the families. This allows families that are financially secure to get free care for their children up to age 21 and not pay a small premium to help maintain the system.

Pennsylvania is currently the only state that does not base benefits on family income.

In addition to these changes, legislation that would ensure the future of the State Office of Inspector General has been passed by the General Assembly and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

Recognizing the importance of its work to root out waste, fraud and abuse within the state’s welfare system and government as a whole, Senate Bill 527 would make the office a permanent part of state government. Currently, it exists only by executive order of the governor.

Under the bill, the Office of Inspector General would be granted subpoena power for its internal investigations and would be authorized to investigate and file criminal charges for certain welfare fraud crimes.