03/17/2009 - The Pennsylvania Medicaid Policy Center was created to be a source of independent, nonpartisan information about the commonwealth’s Medicaid program. Medicaid provides health care coverage to close to two million of the state’s sickest and most vulnerable citizens, almost half of whom are children, and pays for close to 40 percent of births and 65 percent of nursing home care in Pennsylvania. It is also an essential source of funding for many nonprofits, including Pew Fund providers who work with low-income individuals and families. Despite the vital role that Medicaid plays in health care delivery in Pennsylvania, it is poorly understood, due in large part to the complexity of the program’s financing and coverage requirements.
The center was established in recognition of Medicaid’s importance and the need for an independent source that could conduct research and analysis, assess challenges, and facilitate more informed discussion of policy options. Its mission is to increase understanding of Medicaid and its role in the health care system in Pennsylvania, and to help promote the development of cost-effective policy solutions and long-term strategies that serve the program’s constituents and taxpayers. Since its launch, the center has produced seven reports and papers and 13 fact sheets that have been widely shared with consumers, providers, advocates and policy makers. This body of work—often involving data that is difficult to obtain—provides a solid baseline of information regarding Medicaid, enabling policy makers and other stakeholders to understand the program’s full scope and impact. Reports to date include a comprehensive view of who is eligible for Medicaid and the services the program covers; an analysis of the state’s Medicaid budget; an examination of how the state assesses the performance of Pennsylvania’s managed care plans that enroll Medicaid recipients; and the role of Medicaid in the provision of long-term care. The center’s fact sheets offer brief syntheses of key program components such as the state’s multiple and complex “waivers” that help elderly and disabled people to avoid living in institutions.
Given the economic downturn, the $15 billion Medicaid budget is sure to be a focus of policy makers. In the absence of reliable analysis and information, there is the potential for policy makers to make changes to the programs that do not fully take into account the impact of these decisions on individuals, families or providers. The aim of the center is to continue to increase understanding of the essential role of Medicaid in the state, to inform the upcoming debates about the program and clarify the policy choices facing key decision makers.
Frazierita D. Klasen
Director, Pew Fund for Health and Human Services in Philadelphia
Deputy Director, Philadelphia Program
Read more about Pew's work in Pew Prospectus 2009 (PDF).