Commonwealth Foundation Spots Bigfoot in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, PA (February 16, 2012) — Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward issued the following statement on a Commonwealth Foundation report released today:

“The Commonwealth Foundation has spotted Bigfoot in the state Department of Public Welfare. In other words, they are seeing something that just isn’t there.

“Most human services spending is not on welfare, but on health care for low-income seniors, children and people with disabilities. Only 1% of Pennsylvania adults receive cash assistance — what most people think of as welfare.

“Two things are driving the increased enrollment in public health care. First, Pennsylvania is home to the third largest population of senior citizens — a crucial driver of health care spending that was ignored by the Commonwealth Foundation report. If we place draconian limits on long-term care, we will return to the days when too many seniors were forced to age in poverty.

“Secondly, the Great Recession has driven up poverty rates and public health care enrollment in Pennsylvania. As the economy improves, recession-driven enrollment and costs will decline.

“Medical inflation is also a problem, but the Commonwealth Foundation report fails to acknowledge that inflation in Medical Assistance has been lower than private health insurance inflation. Handing over more control to large private insurers, as the report urges, would guarantee higher health care costs for the state.

“Medical Assistance is focused on protecting the health of our children and grandparents, and ensuring that people with disabilities can work and participate in their communities. Welfare enrollment has declined by more than 50% since 1996, but poverty persists. Too many vulnerable Pennsylvanians are left to fend for themselves.

“When the Commonwealth Foundation sees Bigfoot, really they are seeing our kids, our grandparents and the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.”