Govt. Affairs

E&C #SUBHEALTH

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 27, 2018
Contact: Press Office | (202) 226-4972

#SubHealth Convenes Hearing Titled “Better Data and Better Outcomes: Reducing Maternal Mortality in the U.S.”

Live Webcast
Click here to watch the hearing beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Opening Statement of Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D.
Good morning. Thank you to everyone for joining us this morning to discuss a topic that is important to each and every one of us, maternal mortality. This is a subject matter that has been brought to the forefront by Members of this Subcommittee, actions of State Legislatures, and the media. Having spent nearly three decades as an OB/GYN, I believe it should be a national goal to eliminate all preventable maternal mortality – even a single maternal death is too many.

All too often do we read about stories of seemingly healthy pregnant women who are thrilled to be having a child, and to everyone’s surprise, suffers severe complications, or death during pregnancy, birth, or post-partum. The death of a new or expecting mother is a tragic event that devastates everyone involved, but in many cases these are preventable scenarios.
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Opening Statement of Chairman Greg Walden
Today the Subcommittee on Health is holding a discussion on the critical issue of maternal mortality. In fact, we will examine as issue that is literally a matter of life and death for women all across the country. Thank you, Dr. Burgess, for calling this hearing. As someone with decades of real-world experience as an OB/GYN, you know better than most how important this issue is.

This is a difficult topic, and one that is close to my heart. Far too many mothers die because of complications during pregnancy and the effects of such a tragedy on any family is impossible to comprehend.
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Witness Testimony and Additional Background 
Click here to view the hearing background memo and witness testimony on the Energy and Commerce Committee website.

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ENERGYCOMMERCE.HOUSE.GOV

RCPA has been collaborating with the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) and other statewide health care associations on Senate Bill 780 (SB 780). SB 780 establishes the Telemedicine Act, which will authorize health care providers to use telemedicine and require insurers to provide coverage and reimbursement for its use (a detailed summary of the bill can be found here).

Currently, SB 780 is in jeopardy. The bill, which was unanimously approved by two Senate committees, the full Senate, and the House Professional Licensure Committee, could die before a House vote is taken. The Insurance Federation is strongly advocating against the bill with rank and file members and leadership. They assert the bill provides opportunities for fraud and lower quality of care.

Between today and the weekend, it is imperative that supporters of this bill contact their House members directly and ask them to “Tell House Speaker Mike Turzai to bring the bill up for a vote in the House without amendment on Monday, October 1.” This is our final opportunity to secure passage of a bill that will expand access to health care for all Pennsylvanians by requiring insurers to pay for telemedicine services if they pay for the same service in person.

If the bill is not voted in the House, we will have to introduce a new bill during 2019, the beginning of a new legislative session, ending nearly two years of advocacy on this critical issue.

Again, between today and the weekend, it is imperative that supporters of the bill contact House members directly and ask them to “Tell House Speaker Mike Turzai to bring the bill up for a vote without amendment in the House on Monday, October 1.”

Here are the top talking points to support the main message:

  • We want consistency in payment from insurers (We are not directing how to negotiate rates);
  • 38 states have some type of law requiring this coverage;
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said more must be done to expand payment for telemedicine services and lessen restriction for patient access;
  • The bill will ensure greater access for primary and specialty care;
  • Fewer people will have to travel if they are isolated, older, or without transportation (especially in rural and urban areas);
  • It will expand the reach of care to people with opioid use disorder and behavioral health needs;
  • It will help providers manage patients’ chronic conditions and avoid hospital admissions or readmissions;
  • It will help schools address physical and behavioral health issues; and
  • Help caregivers of elderly or seriously ill patients.

There are already protections in place to ensure appropriate care is provided through telemedicine. Providers are governed by state licensing boards, follow a medical code of ethics, and there are strong insurance fraud laws in place to protect against such behavior.

Questions, contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips.

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Upon RCPA’s request, Governor Wolf signed the proclamation announcing September 9–15, 2018 as “Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week,” to recognize and express appreciation to the DSPs throughout the Commonwealth. See the proclamation here.

Nancy Thaler, Deputy Secretary of the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP), has announced her retirement effective August 31, 2018. Secretary Thaler has served as the Deputy Secretary since June 2015. Previously, Thaler was Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services. She also previously served as the Director of Quality Improvement for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Deputy Thaler served the Commonwealth in the Department of Public Welfare (now DHS) from 1986 to 2003, first as Director of the Bureau of Community Programs, then as Deputy Secretary for the Office of Developmental Programs. During her tenure as Deputy Secretary, she advanced the philosophy of “Everyday Lives,” confirming the right of people with disabilities to live an everyday life; a life that is no different from that of all other citizens. Secretary Thaler has always demonstrated the utmost respect for people with disabilities, promoted full inclusion in the community, and has been referred to as a “champion for individuals with disabilities in Pennsylvania.”

Kristin Ahrens, Director, Bureau of Policy and Quality Management will serve in the role of Acting Deputy Secretary upon Secretary Thaler’s retirement. Ahrens has served in her current position since July of 2016. She has been instrumental in developing the ODP waivers and has been responsible for policy development, training, quality, and communications for the past two years. Prior to her appointment at ODP she served as the Policy Director at Temple University, where she was responsible for directing all policy-related activities for the institute, including policy analysis; training and technical assistance to staff, community groups, and policymakers; and creating and/or disseminating briefs on local, state, and federal policy issues that affect people with disabilities and families. Ahrens also provided consultation to ODP on fiscal policy and the HCBS settings rule, served on the Adult Protective Services Coalition, Disability Budget Coalition, DHS Regulatory Revision Work Group, and Association for University Centers Legislative Affairs Committee. She also has experience in Person-Driven Services, including her work at Self Determination Resources (SDRI) for six years, where she was instrumental in the growth of SDRI from a pilot project to a fully operational model brokerage which was replicated statewide. In addition, Ms. Ahrens served as a consultant on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Transformation Transfer Initiative for building sustainable self-directed services in PA’s mental health system.

We wish Deputy Secretary Thaler well in her retirement and look forward to continuing collaborative work with Kristin Ahrens in her new role at the Office of Developmental Programs.

On July 30, 2018, President Trump signed HR 6042 which delays the requirement for personal care service providers to utilize an electronic visit verification (EVV) system. This action changes the deadline by one year, to become effective January 1, 2020. HR 6042 was signed into law in order to delay reduction in the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for personal care services furnished without an EVV system, and also requires more stakeholder input into the implementation process. For questions, contact Carol Ferenz, RCPA IDD Division Director.