‘The whole idea is peace of mind:’ Gov. Tom Wolf urges Pa. residents without insurance to get coverage

    Gov. Tom Wolf (L) and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica K. Altman (R) urge state residents without insurance to sign up for health coverage. The open enrollment window for the federal Affordable Care Act closes on Dec. 15. They made their remarks during a news conference at the state Capitol on Thursday, 11/7/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

    With flu season around the corner, and open enrollment well under way, the Wolf administration is urging Pennsylvanians without health insurance to sign up for coverage before the opportunity passes them by.

    “The whole idea behind this is peace of mind,” the Democratic governor, flanked by Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica K. Altman, said during a Capitol news conference on Thursday. “If you’ve ever had an unexplained ache or pain, you know what a worry that can be.” Throw in a lack of coverage, and that worry can multiply and become hugely costly, he added.

    Pennsylvanians have until Dec. 15 to shop for, and sign up for, coverage through the federal Affordable Care Act exchange.This marks the last enrollment period for Pennsylvanians on the federal exchange. Next year, state residents will be able to sign up for coverage through a state-run exchange that was signed into law with bipartisan support earlier this year.

    Yes, we can ensure health care coverage and save costs in Pa. | Bryan Cutler and Frank Dermody 

    Most Pennsylvanians, nearly 80 percent, may qualify for subsidies if they do not receive coverage through their employer or some other state or federally run program, Altman said Thursday. The Insurance Department has set up an online Consumers’ Checkbook to shop for coverage and to compare plans, she said.

    “Foregoing insurance is a significant risk, even for healthy people,” she warned.

    Altman urged consumers to stay away from private plans that bragged about low-cost coverage, but fail to deliver on such essentials as maternal- or newborn-care; coverage for preexisting conditions, or mental or behavioral health coverage.

    “Healthcare.gov is the only place to go for robust Affordable Care Act coverage,” she said, referring to the federal healthcare exchange.

    Wolf touted the state’s efforts expand access to care, including a Medicaid expansion that allowed tens of thousands of people without insurance to obtain coverage. He also laced into ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act — even though neither the White House, nor its Republican allies on Capitol Hill, have been able to muster the votes for an acceptable replacement.

    “Our uninsured rate has fallen to just 5.5 percent, the lowest on record for Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “Until that rate is at zero, I will continue to fight for affordable health care coverage for every Pennsylvanian.

    An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.