HARRISBURG (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett’s Healthy PA, an alternative to expanding Medicaid, will require the state to hire more than 700 new employees, a newspaper reported Monday.
The figure was far higher than most states have experienced and came as a surprise to some experts in public policy, The Philadelphia Inquirer said.
Most of the new hires would be caseworkers in offices scattered around the state, said Bev Mackereth, Corbett’s public welfare secretary. She said that under Pennsylvania’s system, the caseworkers do more than in some other states, including evaluating those who sign up for potential eligibility for other benefits as well.
She said in an interview Monday that Pennsylvania also trails some other states in automation, which adds to the cost.
“We’re getting there, and we’re not where other states are,” she said. “Some states have everything automated — it’s very easy for them to do.”
The newspaper said the state has estimated about 605,000 people would be newly eligible under Healthy PA. The first-year cost of the 700-plus new hires will be just over $30 million, much of it subsidized by the federal government.
Mackereth said the additional personnel costs would be more than covered by the estimated Healthy PA savings of $125 million.
The Department of Public Welfare estimates it would require even more new workers — about 1,200 of them — to expand Medicaid under the President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law.
Corbett, a Republican seeking a second term this year, is waiting to hear back from federal regulators about Healthy PA. It would use Medicaid expansion money to provide private insurance coverage for the same group of people. Those private insurers would be able to operate without some of Medicaid’s coverage rules.