One Million Pennsylvanians at Risk of Losing Medicaid Coverage Under GOP Default Plan

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By Sean Kitchen

May 5, 2023

A new report shows that one million Pennsylvanians are at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage in House Republicans’ bid to cut federal spending.

The US could default on its debt as early as June without an increase to the debt ceiling, triggering a financial crisis and possibly even a recession. Republicans are using this potential doomsday scenario as leverage in a bid to cut $4.5 trillion from the federal budget in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.  

The proposed Republican cuts — which every Pennsylvania House Republican voted for — would undo major parts of President Biden’s domestic agenda and impose work requirements on Medicaid in order to raise the debt limit through March 2024. As reported by Vox, the Medicaid work requirements would require recipients to work, look for work, or participate in community service for 20 hours a week.    

According to a report published by Protect Our Care, an organization that advocates for expanding affordable healthcare, the Republican default plan would have a significant impact on many Pennsylvanians. 

The report states that one million residents would be in danger of losing their Medicaid coverage due to those Republican work requirements, a total that represents nearly 8% of the state’s population and more than 25% of its Medicaid recipients. 

The work requirements would hit the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown areas the hardest.  More than 400,000 residents in the Philadelphia metropolitan area could lose coverage. In the Pittsburgh area, more than 165,000 residents would be impacted, along with 58,000 in the Allentown area.  

For context, the report cited how work requirements in Arkansas forced 18,000 people to lose their coverage in seven months.

Pennsylvanians with disabilities, adult caregivers and low-wage workers would also be impacted by the proposed cuts to Medicaid.  

The report accuses the Republican plan of stigmatizing people with disabilities, which includes nearly 610,000 Medicaid recipients in Pennsylvania. The Republican proposal requires disabled Medicaid recipients to obtain a doctor’s note stating they are “physically or mentally unfit for employment.”   

Adults who leave the workforce to take care of an adult with disabilities or illness would also lose their coverage. The GOP plan would also subject caregivers to work requirements.   

According to the National Health Law Program, reporting these additional work requirements will burden state agencies with an increase in administrative paperwork. Almost half of Arkansas’ recipients targeted by work requirements had never heard of the policy or weren’t sure how it applied to them.      

Low-wage workers in Pennsylvania would be significantly impacted by these cuts. The report states that close to two-thirds of the families who count on Medicaid work full-time. Low-wage workers who have multiple jobs or work in industries with “volatile hours” would be required to regularly submit paperwork in order to keep their benefits.     

During a press conference Thursday, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey expressed the importance of protecting Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare from attempts to cut funding from the programs. 

“Medicaid tells us who we are as a country and whom we value.” Casey said. 


  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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