PA Gov. Axes Health Care for Poor, Lets Big Business Off Easy

| Wed Mar. 2, 2011 12:39 PM EST

Republicans in Washington have begun hatching plans to undermine Medicaid, as I reported today. And on the state level, legislators squeezed by budget crunches are already taking a hatchet to health care for the poor. In Pennsylvania, newly elected GOP Gov. Tom Corbett has shut down a state-subsidized program providing health care for more than 41,000 working poor "in one of the largest disenrollments in recent memory," according to The New York Times. Though the economic downturn has created skyrocketing demand for the health-care program, adultBasic, Corbett took an axe to the program, The New York Times explains:

Mr. Corbett, a Republican elected in November, has said the program he inherited is not sustainable with Pennsylvania facing a $4 billion budget shortfall… Former Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, started Pennsylvania’s adultBasic program in 2001 to cover those who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance…

The program’s revenue streams have never met more than a fraction of its demand, which has soared in the economic downturn. When the program closed, 505,000 people were on its waiting list, nearly seven times as many as in early 2007.

Other governors have made similar cuts to benefits and coverage for the poor in both red and blue states, with Arizona's Jan Brewer and Washington's Christine Gregoire throwing thousands off the rolls. Corbett is also taking aim at local school districts, who are expected to face state budget cuts of 20 percent.

But though Corbett has taken the hatchet to social services for children and the poor, he's unwilling to make big business pay the same price. To help ease the brunt of drastic budget cuts on needy residents, Democratic legislators in Pennsylvania have proposed a tax on natural gas companies that would yield an estimated $245 million in revenue in its first year. Corbett, however, has flat-out rejected the natural gas tax, having campaigned on a vow not to increase taxes. So when Corbett releases his budget next week, others will have to feel the pain. 

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