Pennsylvania Celebrates 20th Anniversary of HealthChoices Program; Highlights Necessity of Providing Affordable, Quality Care

March 01, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Department of Human Services (DHS) celebrated the 20-year anniversary of HealthChoices, Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program.  Since implementation in February 1997, the program has expanded to cover all 67 counties and serves over 2.8 million children, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, and low-income Pennsylvanians by providing primary and specialty care, preventative care, dental care, prescription drugs, and behavioral health services.

“The success of the HealthChoices program highlights why Pennsylvania needs to continue to provide affordable, quality care to residents who need it most,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “While Pennsylvania’s Medicaid system is providing quality medical care and timely access to services, Republicans in Washington are proposing to roll back coverage. Their proposal would pull the rug out from under our most vulnerable citizens, including seniors, children, and individuals with disabilities, by slashing their health care and putting their lives at risk.”

In 2015, Governor Tom Wolf announced Medicaid expansion. As a result, over 700,000 more Pennsylvanians have enrolled in HealthChoices. Of those 700,000 individuals, almost 125,000 have received vital drug and alcohol treatment which has been instrumental in battling the opioid and heroin crisis. If Republicans in Washington rolled back Medicaid, these Pennsylvanians would be robbed of the opportunity to seek substance use treatments, which would exacerbate our already crippling opioid and heroin crisis.

In the recently revealed Republican health care proposal, Medicaid expansion would be scrapped, future reimbursement for states would be capped, and people with pre-existing conditions may no longer be guaranteed coverage. This would force more people to rely on the emergency room for uncompensated care, which translates to higher costs for all of us, and likely push many small and rural hospitals in Pennsylvania to close.

“Over the last two decades, the department has delivered access to critical health care to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable. HealthChoices has given Medicaid recipients access to a wide array of services in a cost-effective manner through a more streamlined, consumer driven system,” said DHS Secretary, Ted Dallas. “ Any rollback of Medicaid could be fiscally devastating to the commonwealth or force us into rationing care for Pennsylvanians, which is unconscionable.”

Currently, Pennsylvania has the lowest uninsured rate in the state’s history at 6.4% for the general population and 4.1% uninsured rate for children.

Provider enrollment in the MA program has also increased. Today more providers than ever are enrolled in the Pennsylvania MA program, increased from 92,801 in 2014 to 108,776 currently.

“One of the department’s main goals is to provide access to high-quality services. The HealthChoices program does just that,” said Dallas.

Key design features of HealthChoices have contributed to its success over the long term:

  • Inclusivity – MA recipients of all ages and most eligibility groups, including older Pennsylvanians and individuals with disabilities, participate;
  • Focus on special needs – The definition of special needs for HealthChoices recipients is not limited by clinical diagnosis allowing for individuals to access treatment easily;
  • Comprehensive array of services;
  • Enrollment assistance – enrollment specialists provide accurate, unbiased information to enrollees to help them select their health plan;
  • Continuous open enrollment – MA recipients may request a health plan change at any time;
  • Consumer choice – participants are able to choose from the participating health plans;
  • Health home – Access to primary, preventative, and specialty care through their primary care provider; and
  • Ongoing public input through consumer committees.

For more information on the HealthChoices program, visit


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