Pennsylvania Health Law Project: Helping People in Need Get the Health Care They Deserve
PHLP Promotes a County Transportation Program to Connect Isolated Mental Health Consumers
Thanks to a generous grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation, PHLP behavioral health specialist Janice Meinert has been working in Greene County to improve the lives of county residents who currently or formerly received mental health services and who self-identify as living in recovery with a mental illness. PHLP has supported the efforts of these “consumers” to take greater responsibility in managing their own care and impacting the delivery of county services.
Consumers identified a lack of transportation as one of the most significant barriers to mental health recovery and living a normal life. Without transportation, they were unable to do typical things such as attend church, community events and support groups, or go shopping or to the movies.  Without transportation, these individuals felt isolated and unable to fully participate in their communities.
PHLP worked with the Recovery and Education Committee of the Greene County Community Support Program to pilot a project called G-TRIP (Greene Transportation Resource Improvement Project). G-TRIP will connect people who need rides with community volunteers willing to provide rides. The Committee held a breakfast with key community members to test support. The response has been enthusiastic and planning is underway to begin the rides, connect consumers, and establish a lasting program.
Helping Pennsylvanians Access Affordable Health Care

Jennifer is a 39-year-old woman from Montgomery County who is living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Jennifer’s symptoms became severe enough that she recently had to quit her job. However, her health insurance through her husband’s employer covered only $50 of prescriptions per month, while her MS medications cost more than $3,000.

Jennifer called PHLP, and was advised about Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD), a health insurance program that includes full prescription coverage for individuals who are disabled and who are working.  Even though her husband’s income was too high for most kinds of Medicaid, MAWD would allow Jennifer to pay a modest premium for health benefits if she was able to work several hours a month. Jennifer found a part-time job that she was physically able to do, and was relieved to find an affordable health care option that met her needs. When PHLP called Jennifer to get permission to share her story she said, “Anything I can do to help, you guys were really a miracle.”

PHLP Urges Pennsylvania to Simplify Enrollment and Renewal Practices for Child Health Insurance 

It has been widely reported that a significant number of Pennsylvanians, primarily children,are losing coverage at a time when they can least afford it. Last month the Pittsburgh Post Gazette profiled a PHLP client, Alexander, a 5-year-old boy with leukemia whose mother carefully updated his Medical Assistance reenrollment forms, twice, but still lost his health insurance because the county assistance office declared that the paperwork was missing. PHLP was able to help Alexander’s family restore his health coverage, but his case is one of thousands. Nearly 32,000 Pennsylvanians were cut from Medical Assistance between August and September 2011. 18,000 of them were children.
PHLP is working with others to immediately halt these unnecessary and harmful terminations, and has re-issued a briefing paper about simplifying enrollment and renewal practices. Adopting these policies makes sense for families, as well as overwhelmed county assistance offices struggling to meet increased demands for assistance. To read PHLP’s briefing paper, click here
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PHLP in The News

Big Medical Assistance Cuts Tied to Paperwork Backlogs, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/30/11

PA Cuts Off Aid to Thousands, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/31/11

Social Service Organizations Need Support to Help Disabled in Pennsylvania,, 11/3/11

States' Medicaid Costs Still Climbing, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/9/11

What We're Reading

Informing CHIP and Medicaid Outreach and Education: Key Findings from a National Survey of Low-Income Parents, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, November 2011

Medicaid Innovations: Can Managed Care Cut Costs and Improve Value?, Alliance for Health Reform, October 2011

Paper Chase: Medicaid Recipients Must Not Suffer Due to Red Tape, Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/2/11
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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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