The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 10, 2014

Workers eyed for Medicaid

HARRISBURG — The state must hire at least 720 workers to handle the influx of people signing up for expanded Medicaid benefits, according to Corbett administration officials who’ve complained about costs associated with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Most of those workers will be assigned to county offices where they will enroll an estimated 500,000 Pennsylvaanians who are expected to be eligible for Medicaid under the act, said Eric Kiehl, a spokesman for the Department of Public Welfare.

Kiehl said the state needs the extra help regardless of whether it directly expands Medicaid under the new federal health insurance law or if it’s allowed to pursue an alternative to Medicaid expansion that Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed to the faaederal government.

The department doesn’t expect to be reimbursed for all costs related to the new workers, Kiehl said, despite assurances that the government will handle the initial expense of Medicaid expansion. Costs include pensions given to the new workers, who will be state employees, he noted.

“Taxpayers will be footing the bill for their payroll costs,” he said, “and taxpayers will be footing the bill for their pensions.”

The Department of Public Welfare expects to hire 606 caseworkers, supervisors and support staff in county offices, and another 114 administrative staff in Harrisburg, he said.

Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said last week the state’s workforce will increase by 140 positions in the budget year that begins July 1 under Corbett’s version of Medicaid expansion. That number reflects the elimination of 600 jobs in other agencies that will largely offset the new Welfare Department workers, he said.

Since Corbett took office, the state has cut the number of state employees by 3,000, Zogby said.

The state expects to spend $39 million in the coming year on administrative costs related to the Affordable Care Act, Kiehl said.

Corbett has resisted the Affordable Care Act, first by refusing to set up a state-run health insurance exchange. He has since asked the federal government to allow the state to enroll new Medicaid beneficiaries in the private exchanges created under the act. Those exchanges were originally intended to provide alternatives for people who can’t get health care coverage at work.

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