PA can fix health-care dilemma

This week I traveled the commonwealth to talk about “Healthy Pennsylvania,” my plan to make sure every Pennsylvanian has access to quality, affordable health care.

From the Riverview Health Clinic in Harrisburg to the Boys and Girls Club in Pittsburgh, I shared a common sense plan that provides health care choices, reforms a broken Medicaid system and expands the private health care market, while reducing government bureaucracy and helping Pennsylvanians get healthy and find jobs.

The goals of “Healthy Pennsylvania” are common-sense and vital:

– Make sure every child in the state has medical coverage.

– Be certain every citizen has access to a family doctor or health care provider.

– Use our state’s world-class technology to make certain that, no matter where they live, every Pennsylvanian has access to a specialist when they need one.

– Make sure that every Pennsylvanian has access to direct medical care.

This is a Pennsylvania solution to the unique needs of a large and diverse state. It’s not enough to design a system. It has to be a system that works – right here and right now.

We will work with the legislature to reauthorize the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program by the end of 2013 and eliminate the six-month waiting period so kids don’t lose access to their doctors. At the same time, I plan to expand the use of community-based primary care clinics around the state, and increase funding for loan forgiveness programs to attract doctors and other health care professionals to rural and underserved areas of Pennsylvania.

One of the key pieces to the “Healthy Pennsylvania” program is finding the best way to apply federal dollars to insure more than a half-million of our citizens who lack health coverage.

The answer is two-fold: Make the current Medicaid program more efficient, and increase coverage through the private sector.

Currently, one in six Pennsylvanians is on Medicaid, costing Pennsylvania taxpayers $19 billion annually. The current system offers a confusing array of benefit packages that don’t match the needs of the patients who rely on them. As a result, Pennsylvania pays 34 percent more per recipient than the national average.

If the federal government approves PA’s plan to reform our existing Medicaid program, the Commonwealth would be in a position to utilize federal dollars to offer access to a private health care coverage option to low-income, newly eligible Pennsylvanians – up to 133 percent of federal poverty – who are uninsured.

The “Healthy Pennsylvania Option,” enables citizens to buy private health insurance plans through the recently established federal health insurance exchange.

Just like the reformed Medicaid program, these individuals would receive access to quality health care, be enabled to search for work or participate in job training and pay a modest monthly premium.

This is a plan that works for our state, our people and our children. We can’t afford to expand a broken Medicaid system to cover one-in-four of our citizens because of a federal mandate. We can insure every citizen using our own initiative and sense of personal independence.

We need a plan that works. “Healthy Pennsylvania” will.

Corbett is the governor of Pennsylvania.