PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - On Wednesday, a state Senate committee gave up its effort to expand the state's Medicaid program to tens of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians.
Opposition from Governor Corbett and House Republicans proved too much for the Senate, which had earlier approved the expansion.
It came so close -- the expansion of health care coverage to over 700,000 Pennsylvanians -- but the governor's opposition and Republicans led by PA Rep. Mike Turzai killed a bi-partisan Senate effort to expand Medicaid.
It's a special provision of Obamacare to give low income working Americans health care coverage through state Medicaid programs with the federal government picking up the total cost at first but the state chipping in later on.
"Where are we going to get the money in those future years? Right now, in Pennsylvania, one in six people is on Medicaid," Corbett told a Harrisburg radio show. "On the program Washington wants us to adopt, one in four people will be on Medicaid. Where are we going to get the money?"
But supporters says Corbett's refusal to opt in to the federal program is callous.
"It leaves a lot of Pennsylvanians in the dust in terms of their access to health care and that's just conscionable," says PA Rep. Erin Molchany of Mt. Washington.
With police nearby, a dozen protestors took their objections directly to Turzai's McCandless office Wednesday afternoon.
When the protestors went inside Turzai's office, they discovered that the representative was not there, and while his staff was very polite they could not answer the protestor's questions.
The group included some full-time workers who might have been insured under the Medicaid expansion.
"What's his plan to get people insured? If he doesn't have a plan, then what's he going to do to move this legislation forward because this is something that makes financial sense for our state. This is a moral issue," said Silas Russell of One Pittsburgh.
Neither Corbett nor Turzai appear to have an alternative plan to insure these uninsured Pennsylvanians.
The Rand Corporation says this decision will cost the state three billion dollars in federal money and 35,000 new jobs. And hospitals will continue to lose about $550 million each year in emergency room costs that would have been covered by expanded Medicaid.
But Rand says Corbett is also right that over the next six years the state will save $180 million by not expanding Medicaid.
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