One of the fundamental topics that have often gone missing from the current health care debates in Harrisburg is job growth. As indecision and inaction have dominated discussions, the Corbett administration has ignored the fact that implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of the state's Medicaid program provides an unprecedented opportunity to give more than 500,000 currently uninsured, middle and low-income Pennsylvanians access to affordable health care. Expanding health care to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and their families is not just the right thing to do; it's good for the economy and will create jobs.
So, Medicaid expansion would do much more than give many Pennsylvanians an opportunity to gain health insurance coverage: It will provide a much needed economic stimulus to the state. A recent RAND report estimated that Medicaid expansion will add $3 billion to the state's gross domestic product, lead to the creation of 35,000 new jobs, and save hospitals approximately $550 million every year.
Since the federal government will pay 100% of the costs of Medicaid expansion from 2014 to 2016 and 90% of the costs thereafter, expanding the program is an easy economical choice. The federal contribution - projected to be an additional $2 billion every year - will come from taxes already paid by Pennsylvanians, so failing to expand Medicaid will essentially mean giving the federal government money back to be spent in other states.
Finally, taking an active role in implementation of the federal health care expansion will allow Pennsylvania to control several consumer protection benefits. For example, states that are implementing the health care law have a far greater say in how consumers can be protected from insurance companies, how new insurance policy rates can be negotiated, and the types of benefits that will be covered by new health insurance policies.
For all of these reasons - jobs, economic supply chain benefits, availability of federal funding and more control over consumer protections - Tom Wolf will take an active, aggressive role in expanding access to health care in Pennsylvania.
Improving Patient Services
In addition to expanding Medicaid, Tom Wolf will also implement other health care reforms to improve the quality of patient services such as:
- Setting Nurse-to-Patient Ratios - As governor, Tom Wolf will advocate for legislation that sets safe nurse to patient ratios. These ratios will range from one registered nurse to one patient in high needs units like operating rooms and trauma emergency rooms to one registered nurse to five patients in skilled nursing facilities. Significant research has been done that shows safe nurse to patient ratios have increased quality care and improved nursing retention.
- Keeping more Pennsylvania-trained primary care doctors in the state - As governor, Tom Wolf will dedicate an additional $3 million in state funding to expand the number of primary care physicians who can participate in the state's debt relief program for medical professionals and increase the number of residency slots for primary care doctors. This additional funding will allow Pennsylvania to keep primary care doctors in the state by offering a loan repayment program that is competitive with other states. The physicians who benefit from this financial support will have to commit to working in rural and underserved areas for five consecutive years. Some of this funding is already available from federal sources.
- Incentivizing medical care providers to adopt the patient-centered medical home model of care - The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model uses a team of care providers, including doctors, nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists and social workers, to improve patient access to care, care coordination, and quality while at the same time reducing costs. PCMH provides shorter wait times for patients, focuses of mental and physical health of the patient, and puts an emphasis on preventative care. The outcomes of this shift in patient care has resulted in improved health and cost savings. Pennsylvania's Geisinger Health System Proven-Health Navigator was able to use this approach to lower hospital readmissions by 18 percent in one year and reduce total costs per member per month by 7 percent.
- To date, the state has been successful in encouraging medical care providers to adopt this approach for patients suffering from chronic illnesses as well as children. But there is still work to be done. To ensure that Pennsylvania residents receive the best health care treatments, Tom Wolf will provide grant funding to help medical practices set up the processes needed to earn national certification through the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, the Joint Commission, or the URAC.
For more information on Tom’s health care plan please read his "Fresh Start" plan for Pennsylvania by clicking here.