Senate Democrats detailed an extensive plan to save the adultBasic health insurance program at a meeting with insurance industry representatives today.
Without quick legislative action and $54 million in new revenue, adultBasic coverage will be discontinued for 42,000 Pennsylvanians on March 1. Senate Democrats said that their plan would generate the funds necessary to continue adultBasic for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“The proposal is simple. Everyone who is impacted by the plan will give a little and those contributions will form a bridge that gets the program to the next budget year,” Democratic Floor Leader Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said after the meeting. “We must call for non-profit and for-profit health insurers to join and continue their social mission to the community.”
The plan calls for the state to contribute $25 million for this year; plan subscribers would have their premiums increased enough to produce $4 million; and, state health insurers were asked to contribute a total of $25 million among the nine providers.
“The plan gives lawmakers and the governor time to work through the problem, while insurance coverage is continued,” Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) ranking Democratic on the Senate Appropriations Committee said. “Plus, the program is reasonable and it gives us a chance to devise a comprehensive multi-year solution as a part of this year’s budget agreement.”
“It is very important to bring together all groups who have an interest in adultBasic and talk about how the program can be continued” said Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia), Democratic Chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. “The program is way too important to not make the extra effort to keep it operational until the next fiscal year. We’re going to need to make both cost-sharing and administrative changes to the program and use new sources of revenue to fund the program.”
The meeting, involving Senators Costa, Hughes, Stack, House Democratic Leadership staff, and industry representatives in Sen. Costa’s Harrisburg office, was the most extensive effort thus far to find a solution to the revenue shortfall that imperils the health insurance program.
Previously, Sen. Costa – in a letter to all four caucus leaders — asked Republicans and Democrats to come together to determine whether a funding solution was possible.
Also, Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration cobbled together a plan that would cost subscribers significantly more and reduce coverage.
Sen. Hughes said the Senate Democratic plan requires each health-care insurer to donate a modest contribution to help provide coverage in the short term. The West Philadelphia lawmaker pointed out that the state’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurers have an estimated $5.6 billion in reserves and that they do not pay taxes on their premiums.
Sen. Costa said that he also unveiled a legislative strategy and timeline to industry representatives that could put the adultBasic funding bill on the governor’s desk by March 8th when the governor gives his budget address. He said he would talk with his Senate Republican colleagues and would call on them to advance the plan without delay.
“If we move quickly and all give a little, the first bill that Gov. Corbett signs into law could be the one that saves health insurance coverage for more than 40,000 Pennsylvanians,” Sen. Costa said. “That would be quite an accomplishment.”