Pennsylvania Health Law Project: Helping People in Need Get the Health Care They Deserve
Legal Aid to Preserve Children's Health Insurance
For many low-income families, a change in household earnings means children transfer between Medical Assistance (MA) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Although Pennsylvania has an automated referral process to keep health coverage in place, sometimes that process fails and families lose coverage through no fault of their own. PHLP helps families overcome these coverage gaps.
”Mr. Jacobs”, a disabled single dad from Philadelphia County, reported a change in his disability income to the County Assistance Office (CAO). He was told that his 17-year-old daughter, “Kelsey,” no longer qualified for MA, but that an application for coverage would be forwarded to CHIP.
Months went by and Mr. Jacobs did not hear anything. He called the CAO several times, who assured him the automated process would work – yet Kelsey remained uninsured.
Then, Kelsey fell ill and was admitted to the hospital for four days. Without insurance, Mr. Jacobs was told he would need to pay over $60,000 to cover the bill. He knew he could not afford a bill that large on his limited disability income, so Mr. Jacobs called PHLP.
PHLP gathered evidence, contacted state officials, and explained what happened. The state agreed to enroll Kelsey in MA coverage immediately, and made that coverage retroactive so that the hospital bill could be paid in full.
Mr. Jacobs was relieved the hospital bill was taken care of. He explained, “I knew there was something wrong with how this happened, I just couldn’t figure out how to explain it or find the right person to explain it to.” PHLP is glad that the family got the relief they deserved. 

PHLP Co-Convenes Conference on What the ACA Means for People with Jail Stays

Compared with the general public, people who populate jails have higher rates of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis; mental illness and substance abuse disorders; and chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and Hepatitis C. For this population, access to medical treatment upon release is extremely important, yet most have been returning to the community without health coverage

When fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will reduce financial barriers to coverage for people released from jails, through Medicaid expansion and subsidized insurance Marketplaces.

This month, PHLP co-convened representatives of fourteen counties to discuss what federal health reform means for people with jail stays. Co-conveners included the Pennsylvania Departments of Corrections and Public Welfare and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. County attendees heard presentations about new coverage opportunities, and what counties can do in the near term to take full advantage of the ACA and of the January 2015 Medicaid expansion envisioned by Governor Corbett’s Healthy PA proposal.

PHLP Project Fellow Maureen Barden is available to help counties address these issues. Contact her at or (215) 287-4238. Maureen’s fellowship, through a grant from the Open Society Foundation, aims to ensure re-entering individuals have health insurance coverage and that this coverage translates into meaningful access to care. 
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What We're Reading

Implementing Health Reform: Ryan White Third-Party Payments, 2015 Letter to Issuers, and Other ACA Developments, Health Affairs Blog, March 15, 2014

How to Help Residents in States That Are Not Expanding Medicaid, Enroll America Blog, March 11, 2014

Health Insurance Marketplace: March Enrollment Report, ASPE, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, March 11, 2014

Pitfalls Seen in a Turn to Privately Run Long-Term Care, New York Times, March 6, 2014

To Improve Public Health and Safety, One Sheriff Looks Beyond the Jail Walls, Health Affairs, March 2014

Reinventing American Health Care, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, published March 2014

What We're Following

Health Reform Implementation: February 2014 Update [Podcast], Health Affairs, February 25, 2014
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The Pennsylvania Health Law Project is a nationally recognized expert and consultant on access to health care for low-income consumers, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. PHLP engages in direct advocacy on behalf of individual consumers while working on the kinds of health policy changes that promise the most to the Pennsylvanians in greatest need.
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