Uncompensated Care Costs Rise at PA Hospitals

By Chris Lilienthal, Third and State

More than a year ago, the Corbett administration decided to end the state's adultBasic program, which provided affordable health insurance to about 40,000 low-income Pennsylvanians who were unable to obtain coverage from an employer or through other programs.

We worried at the time that many of those newly uninsured would delay treatments until a health condition snowballed into a more serious and costly problem, sending more people to the emergency rooms of our community hospitals.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council released a report this week showing that uncompensated care costs at hospitals did in fact rise in the 2010-11 fiscal year, when adultBasic ended. Uncompensated care totaled $990 million — an 11% increase over the prior year.

Dave Wenner at the Harrisburg Patriot-News has more:    

adultBasic: A Year of Struggle for Many Working Pennsylvanians

A blog post by Chris Lilienthal, originally published at Third and State.

One year after Pennsylvania’s adultBasic program came to an end, many working Pennsylvanians are still struggling with the lose of this critical lifeline. Anxiety and financial pressures are common, and many are allowing chronic health conditions to go untreated.

That was the message delivered by health care providers, advocates and former adultBasic enrollees during a media conference call hosted by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) Wednesday.

adultBasic was created more than a decade ago to provide affordable health coverage to low-income working Pennsylvanians who either lacked job-based coverage or were denied outright because of pre-existing health conditions.

But when a funding agreement between the commonwealth and Pennsylvania’s four Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans expired, Governor Corbett opted to end the program rather than renegotiate the agreement. The adultBasic program shut down one year ago today.

Rick Mossinghoff, a part-time worker from Robinson Township, Allegheny County, was one of the Pennsylvanians who suddenly found himself without health coverage. He opted to enroll in Special Care – a plan for low-income people offered by the Blues and touted by the Corbett administration as an alternative. His new premiums were five times the cost of adultBasic.

“When I had adultBasic, I was able to have physical therapy to combat the arthritic degeneration in my hip,” Mossinghoff said during the conference call. “That all ended, when I lost my coverage – because Special Care doesn’t cover any rehabilitative or physical therapy care.”

Six Months after the End of adultBasic

A blog post by Sharon Ward, originally published at Third and State.

It has already been six months since Pennsylvania pulled the plug on the adultBasic health insurance program for 37,588 people. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center recently took a look at what happened to the Pennsylvanians who lost their adultBasic coverage on the first of March. While some found health insurance elsewhere, many have simply fallen through the cracks.

In all, fewer than 40% of former adultBasic enrollees have enrolled in Medical Assistance or Special Care, a low-cost, limited benefit product offered by Pennsylvania’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans. These were the two options most touted as alternatives for adultBasic enrollees.

According to data provided by the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare and Insurance, only 12,814 former enrollees signed on to the Blues’ Special Care — about 34% of those enrolled in adultBasic when it ended. Special Care came at a cost four times more expensive than adultBasic, and with limits on medical coverage including a four-doctor-visits-per-year cap that may have kept it out of reach for most adultBasic enrollees.

Not So Special Care

A blog post from Sharon Ward, originally published on Third and State.

It has been just about six weeks since the adultBasic program came to an end, leaving 42,000 Pennsylvanians without affordable health insurance coverage. Governor Corbett ended the program, claiming that the state, and the Blues, were too poor to continue funding it.

Never mind that the Governor took $220 million in health care money to create a new business loan fund, or that Highmark just keeps raking in the dough. (More about that later.)

In Case You Missed It: Third and State Blog for Week of February 21

This week on Third and State, we blogged about the looming loss of health coverage for nearly 42,000 adultBasic consumers, a misinformation campaign on public- and private-sector pay, the problem with Arkansas' gas drilling tax, and much more!

In case you missed it:

4,300 Pennsylvanians Tell Tom Corbett to Preserve adultBasic

More than 4,300 Pennsylvanians delivered a message to Governor-elect Tom Corbett today outside his gubernatorial transition office in Harrisburg: Don't let adultBasic die!

That's how many people signed on to a petition delivered to the Corbett Transition Team Friday at 11:30 a.m. calling on him to preserve this critical lifeline for so many working Pennsylvanians. At the same, advocates for adultBasic delivered copies of the petition to the offices of Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia and Highmark in Pittsburgh.

Fighting to Preserve Health Insurance for 43,000 Pennsylvanians

For several months, we have been telling Pennsylvanians about the crisis facing the state's adultBasic health insurance program — but nothing we have said so far holds a candle to Roseann Davis’ story.

Roseann, like tens of thousands of other working Pennsylvanians, earns too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance. So for the past six years, she has relied on the state's adultBasic program, a no-frills, low-cost insurance plan.

That program could end as early as February if Governor-elect Tom Corbett and the incoming Legislature don't take swift action to shore up funding for it early in 2011.

Campaign to Prevent 45,000 Pennsylvanians from Losing Health Insurance Gains Support

Strong calls for preserving adultBasic have followed last week's release of a report from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and Pennsylvania Health Access Network examining a funding crisis facing the program. At the heart of the crisis is the December expiration of an agreement with the state's four Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans to help fund adultBasic.

This week, three of the state's largest newspapers joined the call for funding adultBasic through 2014. Here's what they had to say:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 1, 2010

Covering the basics: The Blues can afford a three-year extension

AdultBasic Sings the Blues

Last week, advocates across Pennsylvania called on state lawmakers to preserve the adultBasic health insurance program.

AdultBasic provides affordable, no frills health coverage to adults earning up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Before last week's statewide Day of Action, organized by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN), few people were aware that the program is in jeopardy.

But it is, as PHAN and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center documented in a new report - AdultBasic Sings the Blues - that was rolled out in conjunction with the adultBasic Day of Action.

Likely House Vote TODAY on Insurance Reform and Final Passage of "Access to Basic Care"

Two editorials today in both of our city's main dailies highlight the hope for Final passage of much needed coverage for the Uninsured.

Editorial: Covering the Uninsured, The Inquirer

A SICK PLAN, The Daily News

Both papers say that the House should approve "Access to Basic Care" in S.B. 1137. That means they should permit the Dems to make their technical amendments (they dropped a couple brackets in there) and send it to the Senate.

That means you, Rep. Perzel, who stepped out before the final vote on the amendment that put "Access to Basic Care" in the bill. Rep. John Taylor, a Philadelphia Republican who usually supports the working poor on issues like this, was not around last week. Hopefully, today, he'll be back in the Capitol and will support the House Democrats new plan. Kenney and O'Brien are on the side of right and justice. Speaking of the Democrats, though: Democrats, none of you can call in sick this week. It would be more irony than I can really handle if people lost their chance to pay for doctor visits because one of you got the flu.

Up for first consideration in the House today, as well, is HB 2005, which reforms the market for insurance purchasers for small groups of people -- the small and medium sized business. This legislation would make it impossible to deny coverage to individuals because they have a health problem (the "pre-existing condition"). In other words, sick people will still be able to buy coverage. Insurers won't be able to jack up people’s rates based on their medical history, and the cost of covering someone will be based only on their age and the average cost of covering a person in that area or community, modified by the individual's age.

HB 2005 will also lower costs. When the uninsured get covered and when hospitals quit making so many mistakes, insurers won’t have to pay out as much money for medical bills anymore. Under HB 2005, the state can make sure that insurers can’t keep the difference. Instead, they’ll have to lower premiums, making insurance less expensive for individuals and easier for employers to provide.

[If anyone asks you, the Deluca Amendment is good and the Micozzie amendment masquerades as compromise while effectively gutting the bill - if in doubt, pass it it as it is.]

More details on the plan, after the jump. So Jump!

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