Governor Tom Wolf recently made an announcement that he will be withdrawing the application for the “low risk” Healthy PA healthcare package of former Governor Tom Corbett from further federal consideration and instead start transitioning participating individuals to Medicaid expansion. The commonwealth will now join more than 20 states and the District of Columbia in opting for a traditional expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Under Healthy PA, the state’s Medicaid program was streamlined from 14 different benefit packages to three separate benefit packages: a low-risk plan, a high-risk plan and a private care option (PCO) plan, with the last plan designed to provide insurance to a population made newly eligible by the expansion of the Medicaid program’s income eligibility guidelines (individuals ages 19 to 64 with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level or $16,243 for an individual), as allowed for by ACA.
Former Governor Corbett spent more than a year negotiating with President Obama’s administration to allow the commonwealth to use federal money to help pay for Healthy PA. For this reason, the plan did not win approval from Washington until last summer. In late December, the Corbett administration received final federal approval for its high-risk and PCO plans, but not the low-risk plan. A few lawsuits, seeking injunctions to stop the Healthy PA changes, were filed before the start of 2015, but none were successful. Healthy PA benefit plans became effective on January 1, 2015.
Transferring of individuals from the various Healthy PA plans to a Medicaid expansion will begin in the spring and be completed by the fall. Until the process is finished, the state will be working with the healthcare industry and hospitals to make sure individuals will continue to be provided with appropriate healthcare.
Federal funds cover Medicaid expansion 100 percent of the cost for 2014 to 2016, 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019 and 90 percent in 2020 and subsequent years. The state has estimated approximately 600,000 more people could be added to the Medicaid program through the expansion. At last count, only 156,000 of the 600,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians have been enrolled in Healthy PA coverage.
From the start, there have been numerous complications under Healthy PA that has resulted in people not receiving important treatment, confusion among recipients, and special populations being placed into the wrong plans, which has jeopardized coverage. A Medicaid expansion is a policy that benefits low-income families while at the same time saving the commonwealth more than a billion dollars over the next three to four years. I applaud Governor Wolf for this decision and I am committed to programs that will help my constituents have access to quality and affordable healthcare.
Special Enrollment Period for CHIP Buy-in Families
Governor Wolf announced recently that families enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) Buy-in Plan will be able to enroll in new plans during an extended enrollment period. The administration also announced that affected families will not face a tax penalty for 2014 or through the extended enrollment period in 2015. The federal government previously determined that the CHIP Buy-in Plan did not qualify for recognition as minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act because it does not meet certain requirements. The Buy-in Plan is available to middle class families with incomes above 300 percent ($72,750 for a family of four) of the federal poverty level and approximately 2,700 families across Pennsylvania have kids enrolled in this program.
Any family affected that needs to find new health plans for their children, please visit www.chipcoverspakids.com or click here to view a listing of CHIP providers in Allegheny County.
I want to remind everyone that in recent weeks, I have expanded my locations by adding mobile offices in the Strip District and on Pittsburgh’s Northside. Below is an updated listing of my office locations and hours:
932 Brookline Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone – 412-344-2551
Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Beechview (satellite office)
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone – 412-343-2080
Tuesdays - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Kenmawr Plaza, 500 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp., PA 15136
Phone – 412-331-1208
Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Strip District (mobile office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
|Northside (mobile office)
Carnegie Library – Allegheny branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you filed a paper rebate form last year, you should have received a 2014 application by now. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. Keep in mind that half of Social Security income is excluded.
Due to program changes enacted last year to ensure claimants aren’t disqualified from rebates solely because of Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments, homeowners and renters may be eligible for rebates even if their eligibility income is greater than these limits. Any homeowner who collected Social Security, received a property tax rebate in 2013 for claim year 2012 and had annual income last year, discounting half of Social Security, up to $36,129, is encouraged to apply for a rebate for claim year 2014. Any renter in that same situation with an annual income in 2014, discounting half of Social Security, up to $15,484, is also encouraged to apply.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30th.
Did You Know…
Did you know more than $276 million in property tax and rent rebates have been sent to more than 578,000 homeowners and renters across the state for taxes and rent paid in 2013?
Keystone West High Speed Rail Study
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration and Norfolk Southern, initiated a study in 2011 to identify and evaluate potential improvements to passenger rail service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Last week, PennDOT released the study, the Keystone West High Speed Rail Feasibility Report and Preliminary Service Development Plan. This report assesses the corridor’s current requirements and needs and identifies a variety of improvement options, benefits and challenges.
The report can be viewed at www.PlantheKeystone.com by clicking on “Keystone West” on the “Resources” tab. PennDOT is inviting the public to comment on the report. Ideas and questions can be sent to KeystoneWest@planthekeystone.com.
Love Your Block Application Deadline Extended
The Love Your Block initiative invites City of Pittsburgh organizations to submit project proposals that can transform their blocks with up to $1,000 and the support of City Departments. This City of Pittsburgh initiative was developed as part of servePGH, the City’s high-impact service plan to engage citizen volunteers to tackle Pittsburgh’s greatest challenges. With these grant funds, winning groups can purchase supplies, engage their neighbors, and roll up their sleeves to transform their neighborhood. Projects may include, but are not limited to:
- creating green spaces
- enhancing parks
- removing graffiti and litter
- sprucing up of pathways
The deadline for this round of applications has been extended. Applications are now due this Friday, February 20th by 5 p.m. For more information on the program and to download an application, please visit www.pittsburghpa.gov/servepgh/loveyourblock.
Arsenal & Leslie Parks - Public Meetings
Two public meetings have been scheduled for Lawrenceville residents interested in viewing draft master plans for Arsenal and Leslie Parks. The first meeting is scheduled for February 26th, from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Stephen Foster Community Center, located at 286 Main Street. The second meeting is scheduled for February 28th, from 10 a.m. – noon at the Carnegie Library Lawrenceville branch, located at 279 Fisk Street. Draft plans for each park will be presented and attendees will have the opportunity to provide feedback. For more information, please visit Lawrenceville United online at www.lunited.org.
Yesterday was Presidents’ Day in the United States where we celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present. Of the 44 people who have served as President of the United States, only one was elected from Pennsylvania. James Buchanan, Jr., from Lancaster County, was our 15th President, serving from 1857-1861, just before the start of the Civil War.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216