The Unfortunate Basics of AdultBasic

State Rep. Curt Sonney 

Reviewing the history of Pennsylvania’s AdultBasic program is necessary in order to understand why the program does not have funding to provide coverage to enrollees beyond February 28, 2011. 

AdultBasic, which provides health insurance for uninsured adults between the ages of 19 and 64 whose income is 200 percent of the federal poverty level or lower, was established in 2001 by Gov. Tom Ridge through Act 77 and the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement. Financial experts estimated AdultBasic to be sustainable for at least 25 years.  

Shortly after taking office, Gov. Ed Rendell privately contracted with the four non-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield (the Blues) organizations in Pennsylvania to establish the Community Health Reinvestment Agreement (CHRA), a formula to fund the expansion of AdultBasic.   

In the last four years, Rendell redirected more and more of the Tobacco Settlement funds dedicated to AdultBasic to one state budget line item. In the end, funding for AdultBasic grew more and more dependent upon the CHRA payments. With CHRA expiring December 31, 2010, many General Assembly members raised concerns with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department during their 2010-11 Appropriations Committees’ budget hearings.   

Further aggravating the situation, the insurance commissioner, at the direction of Rendell, instructed AdultBasic contractors to offer enrollment to more than 45,000 individuals on the program’s wait list a total of six times between February and June of 2010.  

After the 2010-11 budget hearings, members of the Legislature continued to urge the governor to focus his efforts on stabilizing the program, particularly for those enrollees who have come to depend upon it.  Rendell instead used the AdultBasic population as political pawns, as opposed to respecting a group of real people with true health care concerns.   

On April 26, 2010, state Rep. Todd Eachus introduced House Bill 2455, a bill that would have codified and expanded CHRA.  While commenting on House Bill 2455, Eachus stated, “all we need is a bridge...” until January 1, 2014, when the American Health Benefit Exchange, under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), takes effect.   

Several options and/or alternatives to address the funding crisis Rendell created could have been explored at that time. Unfortunately, the time to consider the aforementioned options has since passed and many of those options are simply unavailable today. 

In truth, Gov. Rendell left the Legislature with very limited, harsh options to consider and very little time in which to exercise them. 

Despite these challenges, I assure you I will do my level best to work with Gov. Tom Corbett and my General Assembly colleagues to develop a workable and reasonable solution.  While I am unable to promise you that the solution will preserve AdultBasic as you know it today, I believe the solution will strike the necessary balance between fiscal responsibility and a respectful and compassionate response to the concerns of those who have come to depend upon this program. 

State Representative Curt Sonney
4th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  Scott Little

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