Subscribe for 17¢ / day
The Pennsylvania State Capitol

The Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Tom Corbett was surrounded by doctors and other healthcare professionals in September, 2013 when he rolled out Healthy PA at Harrisburg Hospital.

It was to be his signature healthcare accomplishment.

It was Pennsylvania's alternative to President Obama's Affordable Care Act. It was uncertain then whether the feds would approve but they eventually gave Healthy PA the green light.

"This is good for 600,000 people who will now have access to healthcare coverage, but also good for the Pennsylvania taxpayers because there will be $4.5 billion in savings over eight years," said Jennifer Branstetter, Corbett's Policy Director.

Healthy PA rolls out in nine days, on December 1, when the uninsured can sign up.

They'll have healthcare coverage one month later, on January 1.

But come January 20, Tom Wolf becomes governor. He's promising to scrap Healthy PA and favors an expansion of federal Medicaid. The Wolf team says it's unhealthy for the Corbett team to keep pushing their program.

"What's unfolding here is a determination to drive in a direction that the current administration knows to be a dead end and a brick wall," said Katie McGinty, Wolf's Chief of Staff.

The state is reportedly in the process of spending millions of dollars advertising Healthy PA's arrival, which McGinty calls a waste on a plan that will soon depart.

"There can be no mistake as to where Governor Wolf is heading and yet we see these announcements of multi-million dollar contracts essentially wasted on a program who's shelf life is known," McGinty said.

Branstetter, who poured months into the creation of Healthy PA, concedes the incoming governor can do as he pleases but she hopes Wolf will give it a closer look before pulling the plug.

"I think it would be unfortunate if the governor-elect came in and didn't take the opportunity to learn what it is before he makes that decision," Branstetter said.

But Wolf says voters made the decision for him. He ran on the promise of scrapping Healthy PA and he won by a good margin. So it appears Pennsylvania will launch a grand healthcare experiment on January 1 and then kill it less than three weeks later. It's unclear exactly what it will take to dismantle this mousetrap.

"We've been working for months and months on systems changes," Branstetter said. "So to unwind those systems changes I think there's mis-information out there that it's as easy as the flip of a switch. It is not. It would take months to unwind."

To help unwind Healthy PA and move toward Medicaid expansion Wolf named former Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman to his transition team to focus on the issue.

"It is an expression of his (Wolf) sense of urgency that we can't just let the clock tick," McGinty said. "We need to have people in place right now who can move the commonwealth in a different and better direction."

The Wolf team would like to be moving in that direction now but on the issue of healthcare they'll have to wait until just after noon on January 20 to get things moving their way.