In Pa., Low-Income Adults Soon May Be Uninsured Few options are available for the 42,000 Pennsylvanians losing coverage by the end of the month. Their state-subsidized health plan is out of money, and new Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is terminating the program.
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In Pa., Low-Income Adults Soon May Be Uninsured

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In Pa., Low-Income Adults Soon May Be Uninsured

In Pa., Low-Income Adults Soon May Be Uninsured

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Most of the recipients will be able to get coverage under the new federal health law, but those changes don't kick in until 2014. Until then, they're on their own. Jenny Gold of our partner Kaiser Health News has this report.

JENNY GOLD: Paula Michele Boyle and her husband Tom are longtime residents of Philadelphia. He's a contractor and she recently started a new career as a life coach. Both own their own businesses, and together they bring in about $25,000 a year.

PAULA MICHELE BOYLE: We're above poverty level, but we really don't make enough to afford regular-cost health insurance.

GOLD: If they lived anywhere else, they'd probably be uninsured. But lucky for them, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states in the country that has a special health insurance program for low-income adults who aren't eligible for Medicaid. Both Paula and her husband are cancer survivors.

MICHELE BOYLE: It really, you know, was a lifesaver because I was able to go to doctors and have follow-up care.

GOLD: She's been on the program - adultBasic - for eight years, and her husband for five. It costs them each just $36 a month. But earlier this month, they got a letter in the mail explaining that their coverage is ending.

MICHELE BOYLE: Well, I got the letter and I kind of took it a little personal, thinking that maybe it was us. So I read it a little further and thought, hmm, sounds like the whole thing is being terminated.

GOLD: Unidentified Man: Thank you for calling the adultBasic helpline. Coverage under the adultBasic program is ending on February 28, 2011 due to lack of funding.

MICHELE BOYLE: We were like in shock over this, you know. What are we going to do now? We need doctors visits and testings.

GOLD: The money for the program came from a state tobacco settlement plus a deal with Pennsylvania's four Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. The deal was supposed to expire in December, and the insurers agreed to keep it going through June. But the program has simply run out of money, and the state is facing a four billion dollar hole in its budget. Here's State Senator Ted Erickson, a Republican.

TED ERICKSON: As the economy was growing and as we were collecting more and more taxes, we expanded so many programs. We put new programs in place. Well, it's time now to go back and take a look at many of those programs to see whether we can truly afford them.

GOLD: Jay Costa is the Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania state senate.

JAY COSTA: I think it was done in haste. I think that enough consideration wasn't given to try to find a resolution to maintaining the program.

GOLD: He says about fifty million dollars is needed to extend the program until June 30. And then, what to do until 2014? That's when many of the people enrolled in adultBasic will get subsidized coverage or Medicaid as a result of the new federal health law.

INSKEEP: Tough choices created by budget deficits.

ALAN WEIL: I hate to say it's to be expected, but I think it's not shocking. There just are so few places that states have room in their budgets, and this is a program that, because it doesn't operate under federal rules, they can grow or shrink as their fiscal conditions permit.

GOLD: Paula Michele tried to get a private health plan with better benefits but was told that her cancer diagnosis makes her uninsurable. Coverage for her husband would cost $1,000 each month.

MICHELE BOYLE: We're kind of scrounging, thinking we may have to give up our home just so that we could pay a high premium.

GOLD: For NPR News, I'm Jenny Gold.

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