Energy - February 21, 2014


Corbett Submits “Healthy PA” Waiver for Federal Approval

Governor Corbett submitted a tempered version of his “Healthy PA Initiative” to the US Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday.  The proposal utilizes federal Medicaid dollars to subsidize private commercial insurance for Pennsylvania’s uninsured.  Corbett’s plan was identified as one of the more extreme after its initial unveiling in December due to its work search requirement.  However, the governor’s updated proposal contains several notable changes. 

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, Corbett’s new waiver application stalls the work search requirement and monthly premiums for those making above 100 percent of the poverty level ($23,850 for a family of four) until 2016.

Additionally, limits on primary care visits were eliminated, and limits placed on lab testing, mental health and drug and alcohol services were curtailed.

“Healthy Pennsylvania is vital to providing a much needed safety net for the people that need it most. However, we want to make sure Medicaid remains a transitional benefit,” Corbett said in a press release.

Corbett is still taking heat for his administration’s delay in the rollout of the proposal.  Submitted to the DHHS on Wednesday, the application for federal funds cannot be ruled on until April.  Even if the application is accepted as soon as possible, coverage will not begin until January 1, 2015 costing Pennsylvania’s 500,000 uninsured millions of dollars.

While hospitals and health organizations are somewhat pleased to see the submission of a slightly reformed package, policy experts are not as optimistic.  Policy experts cite the work search requirement as the major road block to the proposal gaining traction in Washington.

 

Rep. Vitali joins Environmental Advocates in Letter Opposing Governor’s State Park Gas Development Lease Proposal

Joined by Rep. Greg Vitali, thirty-five environmental conservation groups released a letter voicing their opposition to the proposed leasing of state park and forest land mineral rights in Governor Corbett’s FY 2014-2015 budget.  The letter released on Wednesday February 19, urged legislators “to oppose Governor Tom Corbett's proposed plan to end the existing moratorium on gas leasing in state forests and… to vote against any budget that incorporates revenue from that plan.”

Governor Corbett’s FY 2014-2015 budget includes a provision to raise funds by leasing mineral rights directly under state forest land to private drilling companies, overturning a 2010 executive-ordered moratorium placed on drilling in state forest land.  The Scranton Times-Tribune reported that, “the governor hopes to generate $75 million from lease payments” from companies operating adjacent to state game lands who would gain rights to drill underneath the state land.

The groups signing onto the letter on Wednesday are opposed to the governor’s proposal on the grounds that it would harm the state’s environmental and economic health.  The letter points out that the 2.2 million acres of PA state forest land, as well as the outdoor recreational opportunities, and vibrant wildlife of the Commonwealth along with it, will be impacted by the increased drilling around state lands.  “The professionals who have weighed in on this are seriously concerned about the impacts here,” Rep. Vitali said in a related statement.

Increased drilling is reportedly unfavorable with a majority of Pennsylvanians.  According to the letter, which cited numerous polling samples, “67% of Pennsylvanians thought gas extraction should not occur in state parks,” and, “68% of Pennsylvanians oppose additional gas development in state forests.”

Rep. Vitali currently has a bill in the Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy to place a legislative moratorium on leasing state park and forest lands for oil and natural gas development.  That bill however, has remained in committee since March 11, 2013.

 

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