A shot of one of the mock Tom Corbett football cards Keystone Progress advocates will be handing out before Sunday's Philadelphia Eagles game. Credit: Keystone Progress
Progressive organization Keystone Progress used Sunday's Philadelphia Eagles game against the Dallas Cowboys to raise awareness about Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to overhaul Pennsylvania's Medicaid program, a move they're calling a bid to convert the program to corporate control while hurting low-income residents.
The group hired a plane to fly over the area of Lincoln Financial Field towing a banner reading, "Gov. Corbett loves the Cowboys – hates PA families."
"The banner is a fun way to draw attention to Corbett’s Medicaid scheme," Keystone Progress executive director Michael Morrill said in a statement.
"We’re not sure if Corbett really loves the Cowboys, but we know that Corbett’s Medicaid plan is really back-door privatization and is another giveaway to corporations."
Morrill said in an interview Sunday the group staged the event because, in part due to large crises on the federal level like the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, the Medicaid issue "has dropped off the radar screens" of many politicians and media outlets.
"We were just trying to find some different ways to do things," he said.
"We thought the Eagles are coming back to life and in first place, and it's kind of a metaphor for what we wanted to do with this issue – bring it back to life and get it some more attention."
At issue is Corbett's proposal brought forth last month that the state, rather than expanding the Medicaid program as-is, instead give subsidies to low-income residents allowing them to buy insurance through the federally-run health care exchange.
The move would push many who are currently served by Medicaid into for-profit health insurance plans, with only those deemed "medically fragile" having the option of retaining traditional Medicaid coverage.
"The big issue is that it's really a corporate giveaway," Morrill said.
"The governor's plan really takes what is a well run, efficient public entity and turns it over to a corporate entity, which will not be accountable to the public."
Corbett's plan further requires most beneficiaries of subsidized health care pay monthly premiums and participate in work search or job training programs in order to receive insurance.
"The plan also has serious flaws in that Medicaid, especially the expansion, is supposed to be for people who are falling through the cracks," Morrill said.
"If they were poorer, they could get Medicaid straight out. If they had more money, they could afford to buy insurance in the private marketplace with the new exchanges. These are folks who fall in the middle and they're mostly working families who don't have a lot of money but aren't so poor they can get on Medicaid."
He said an expansion of Medicaid would allow such families to have health insurance coverage "without breaking the bank," while Corbett's plan would require them to pay.
"[The premiums] aren't a lot by middle class family standards, but if they had extra money, they wouldn't be eligible for this in the first place," Morrill said.
"Forcing them to pay even nominal amounts, many families won't be able to make the premium payments, which means those folks won't have health insurance."
Advocates with Keystone Progress were also outside SEPTA's AT&T Station near the stadium from 10:30 a.m. to noon Sunday handing out mock Tom Corbett football cards featuring the governor decked out in Cowboys garb and labeled a "quarterback for corporate privateers."
The cards on the back state Corbett has "major limitations as a team leader," chief among them "his inability to see anything but the right side of the field."
Keystone Progress claims Corbett's alleged tunnel vision "has resulted in repeated turnovers to corporations" and that "the team owners – the people of PA – are ready to make a change."
The mock football cards pointed out Corbett planned to give the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a foreign-owned corporation, pushed a plan that allowed drilling companies to be taxed at lower rates than many other states, and that, now, "he wants to turn over Medicaid, healthcare for low-income Pennsylvanians, to big insurance companies."
Morrill said it's all part of an effort to get people to start paying attention to the implications of the state's proposed Medicaid overhaul.
"We want them to recognize two things that are going on," he said.
"One, there's a giveaway that's happening one more time where corporations are benefiting. And once again, they're benefiting at the expense of Pennsylvania families. So not only is there a giveaway to the rich and powerful, but the folks that are trying to be reached by this [Medicaid expansion] – poor and working families – are being harmed."
The next Pennsylvania gubernatorial election will be held Nov. 4, 2014.