Faced with a budget deficit that exceeds $2 billion, the House this week passed a welfare reform bill that I sponsored, which would establish work requirements for people on public assistance and preserve the continuity of care for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.
Expenditures for public health and welfare account for about 39 percent of our state budget. One of our largest cost-drivers is our Medical Assistance program, which increases by about 7 percent annually. Yet, state revenue to pay for it is increasing at a rate of only 3 percent.
My bill (HB59), which is now before the state Senate, provides commonsense reforms that aim to bring this spending under control while protecting those in need.
Unlike every other state in the country, Pennsylvania families are not required to pay Medical Assistance premiums and co-payments for their disabled children. These services are free, regardless of family income.
However, the disparity between the cost and funding of these benefits threatens our ability to provide these services.
My bill would require minimal monthly premiums for Medical Assistance for wealthier families to ensure there is ample funding to provide this critical lifeline for those in greatest need.
Under my legislation, a family of four with an income in excess of $246,000 would be asked to pay a portion of their medical insurance premium.
This change would save the Commonwealth about $6 million the first year and would enable us to maintain the current level of service for the more than 1.2 million Pennsylvania children receiving Medical Assistance
Another major reform in my bill aims to break the generational chain of dependency on public assistance.
It requires reasonable work requirements for those on public assistance who have the physical and mental capacity to do so. This requirement is substantially similar to many other welfare programs, including food stamps, which have a work requirement in order to be eligible.
President Bill Clinton established a successful welfare-to-work program during his administration and the states that implemented it have experienced significant reductions in their welfare rolls.
I am hopeful the governor will sign my bill into law and begin encouraging self-sufficiency while saving the Commonwealth tens of millions of dollars.
Until we get entitlement spending under control, we will continue to have billion- dollar state budget deficits.
The Department of Human Services routinely overspends its budget and looks to the General Assembly to bail it out. The time is fast approaching when we will no longer be able to do so.
State Rep. Dan Moul, a Republican, represents the 91st House District, which includes part of Adams County. He writes from Harrisburg.