Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Brian Duke, on Monday in Upper Darby, shared Gov. Tom Corbett’s state budget initiatives and goals for 2014-15. About 50 seniors filled a café and asking a variety of questions ranging from affordable healthcare to crimes against seniors.
“After three years of controlled spending, we’re able to have a little bit more money to dedicate to different causes and also include services to those who are older,” said Duke.
Duke said the state’s budget currently is at $29.4 billion and is focused on building a stronger Pennsylvania in three different areas: employment opportunities, education and “affordable quality healthcare” which the governor has coined the Healthy Pennsylvania plan.
“In Healthy Pennsylvania, the governor has proposed a plan for access to quality affordable healthcare built on three pillars,” explained Duke. “The first pillar is about increasing access. The second is about ensuring quality and the third is about providing affordability.”
When asked why Corbett had not expanded Medicaid with money offered by the federal government, Duke said the governor wanted to ensure that healthcare was affordable as a long term fix and not a temporary one.
“His first concern is that Pennsylvanians have access to quality affordable care. He wants to make sure that the plan, his plan (Healthy PA), is responsive to the unique needs of Pennsylvanians,” responded Duke. “One of the first issues is that, what the federal government proposed is a template approach at the national level that he believes doesn’t address all of the unique needs of Pennsylvania.”
Duke added that although the federal government has offered to pay 100 percent for the expansion of Medicaid, costs for medical assistance between federal and state combined, is at “$29.6 billion” and these costs increase by about $600 million each year automatically without any changes. He said Corbett has tried to address medical assistance costs in the Healthy PA plan, accounting for the unpredictability of consistent federal funding for programs.
“I can say that with at least three or four programs in the Department of Aging, our senior employment program, our volunteer program, our caregiver program and some of our nutrition programs, have all been hit by changes in funding at the federal level that was committed to in a previous time and that happens in government,” said Duke. “He’s concerned about that cost and he’s concerned about the eventual costs on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should there be a change at a federal level.”