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Governor Unveils Universal Health Care Proposal
January 19, 2007

On January 17 Governor Edward G. Rendell unveiled his administration’s universal health care proposal for Pennsylvania. An overview was released and further details are expected during this February 6 state budget presentation and subsequent department briefings.

Cover All Pennsylvanians
Rendell has titled his initiative Cover All Pennsylvanians (CAP). Highlights of the proposal overview include:

  • Program objective of providing affordable health insurance for all Pennsylvanians. Nearly one million Pennsylvanians currently have no health coverage.
  • Smoking would be banned in public locations.
  • Businesses would have to provide health insurance for employees or pay a tax (three percent of said business’ payroll). Small employers whose employee average salaries are less than $42,000 could obtain state-subsidized insurance.
  • The proposal is not a single-payer or government-run system. However, it will use a state-operated program to provide free or affordable health insurance to those who otherwise do not have access to coverage.
  • In addition to seeking additional federal financial participation and the tax on non-participating businesses, the proposal includes shifting funding currently spent on the commonwealth’s adultBasic program to CAP.
  • Taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco would be imposed and the current cigarette tax would be increased.
  • Hospitals would be required to eliminate infections caught and transmitted at their facilities, reduce the incidence of medical errors, and institute the usage of electronic medial records.

The Status of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation
The overview unveiled and made available does not include specific information on behavioral health or the plan’s interface with the mental retardation system. In discussions with association committees during the past year, legislative staff have shared that work groups were convened through the Office of Health Care Reform regarding this proposal; however, work group participants and outcomes have either been unavailable or sketchy.

PCPA has heard that "some mental health and substance abuse coverage" will be included in the proposal; a brief statement to this effect appears in one of the overview documents. Essentially, behavioral health benefits will be extended as part of the current adultBasic program and operate similar to commercial coverage (certainly not as extensively as Medical Assistance coverage).

One of the overview documents also mentions that an integrated treatment model for individuals with co-occurring disorders will be developed as part of the proposal. It will include children, adults, and those who are incarcerated.

Further Information
It is assumed that further information and details will be made available through the governor’s budget address in February. This proposal will obviously garner much attention and discussion in the medical and public health communities, within the legislature, etc. The association will keep members apprised of information as it is available. A link to the overview can be found at www.ohcr.state.pa.us. Please contact Melissa DiSanto Simmons, director of legislative affairs, or any policy specialist at the association with questions or concerns.

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