The Lead

Pa. House Dems aim to head off push to privatize ride service for Medicaid recipients

By: - November 4, 2019 5:02 pm

House Democrats have introduced a bill aimed at overturning a push to privatize a state service for Medicaid recipients.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, and Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Delaware, would repeal language added to the state budget in 2018.

The last minute budget addition a year ago sparked unrest this year among rank-and-file lawmakers from both parties.

The provision, added in to the budget by Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, privatized low cost trips to the doctor or dentist for Medicare recipients. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the budget, and his administration has held that the change will save state dollars.

“We refuse to allow the state to tear apart a system that works, just because some bureaucrats believe they can save money,” Burns said in a statement. “Without our bill, local agencies would be forced to increase rates while cutting services and hours of operation.”

Lawmakers agreed to privatize free medical trips for Medicaid recipients last year. Now, some are trying to stop it

According to a Texas A&M University study, about 7 percent of Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees used the state’s Medical Assistance Transportation program, or MAT, in 2014, accounting for a little less than 11.5 million rides.

The total cost of the program was $148 million, split between the state and federal government, for an average cost of $13 a ride.

Meanwhile, the state was paying a private provider in Philly about $6 a month for each eligible rider.

Local transit agencies and county governments warned that the change could lead to increased costs for other vulnerable citizens — such as seniors or people with disabilities — who get subsidized rides through other programs.

The bill is not the only one where Democrats are attempting to preempt their own governor.

A bipartisan bill by Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, would prevent the Wolf administration from shuttering two state centers for the intellectually disabled. It was passed out of committee October 22.

One coal country Democrat, Rep. Pam Snyder, from Greene County, has also joined Republicans to propose legislation to prevent the state from entering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Wolf would have veto power over any bill stopping his administration from taking any action.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.