Govt. Affairs

(From DHS)

July 30, 2019

Medicaid’s 54th Anniversary Highlights Increased Healthcare Access for Pennsylvanians 

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller marked Medicaid’s 54th anniversary by highlighting the program’s success in expanding healthcare access to millions of Americans.

“Since its creation 54 years ago by President Johnson, Medicaid has had a direct and positive impact on the health of millions of Pennsylvanians for whom healthcare coverage would otherwise be unaffordable,” said Secretary Teresa Miller. “We are proud to mark today’s anniversary and the good work the people at DHS have done in implementing Medicaid and its expansion.”

Since 2015, about 1.4 million people – or one in 10 Pennsylvanians — have been covered at some point by Governor Tom Wolf’s expansion of Medicaid. As a result of Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania has achieved its lowest uninsured rate on record and has reduced hospitals’ uncompensated care costs across the commonwealth by almost $330 million. Most importantly, Medicaid expansion has resulted in comprehensive healthcare access to more than 700,000 previously uninsured Pennsylvanians who now have the resources they need to focus on living a healthy, fulfilling life. In total, more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians have access to healthcare through Medicaid.

The Wolf Administration remains committed to ensuring Medicaid remains accessible to any Pennsylvanian who may need it, including the 800,000 who could be negatively affected by Medicaid work requirements. One of DHS’ top priorities is increasing employment opportunities for those we serve, but work requirements are not an effective way of accomplishing this goal. Without meaningful workforce development supports and services, work requirements are just another obstacle to a higher quality of life. Tied to Medicaid, work requirements would achieve nothing but the denial of healthcare to people who need it.

“Our goal at DHS is to implement programs that empower Pennsylvanians to support themselves and their families,” said Secretary Miller. “Meeting a person’s health needs is one of the most important steps to helping them excel in education, training, and the workforce. The Wolf Administration is committed to the continued expansion of a healthcare system that advances services and supports to treat the whole person.”

For more information about Medicaid in Pennsylvania, click here.

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Since the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed HB 33, eliminating the General Assistance program, legislative and advocacy groups are working to help Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable and impoverished populations previously receiving support from General Assistance. Senate Bill 799 has been introduced to establish the Emergency Relief Program. This program is designed to provide temporary emergency assistance of $200 per month for the most vulnerable populations with immediate and urgent needs.

The Emergency Relief Program goes to people with disabilities who cannot work, people in treatment for a substance use disorder, orphaned children cared for by neighbors or friends, people fleeing domestic violence, qualified veterans, or people caring for someone with a disability.

Additionally, Community Legal Services in Philadelphia filed suit against the Department of Human Services, challenging the constitutionality of HB 33 and the manner in which it was passed. See the document below for more information:

Contact Jim Sharp, RCPA Children’s Division Director, with questions.

The Planning Committee for State Representative Dan Miller’s Annual Disability & Mental Health Summit is seeking session proposals for workshops geared towards people impacted by disabilities and mental health concerns. Those attending the summit consist of parents, family members, caregivers, advocates, service providers, educators, medical professionals, government officials, legal professionals, inclusive employers, and mental health professionals. Sessions are 60 minutes in length, and should include 10–15 minutes for Q&A.

Representative Miller’s Disability & Mental Health Summit provides the largest collection of resources and workshops in Western Pennsylvania. Over the past six years, this event has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. In 2020, the summit will recognize and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in a bigger venue, doubling the crowd, providing more resources, and increasing the summit’s scope across the state! You can visit this website to view last year’s program. Please feel free to share this with your peers and other organizations.

The 2020 Disability & Mental Health Summit will take place on March 6, 2020 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Submission deadline is September 30, 2019.

Questions, please contact Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

This September, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Recovery Month. DDAP is seeking participation in their Annual Recovery Month Kickoff, which will take place on September 4 from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. The event will be a bit different from previous years and will be held in the atrium at Strawberry Square; a focal point of downtown Harrisburg with a lot of foot traffic from community members.

By moving the event location from the Capitol Rotunda to Strawberry Square, DDAP hopes the venue change will attract more interaction with community members. DDAP is looking for providers to participate in the September 4 event by setting up a display table with information about your organization and the services that you provide.

Please note that space is limited and participation will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. To secure a table, please email DDAP Communications Director Rachel Kostelac. Questions, please contact Jack Phillips.

Prior to the July 4 holiday, the House and Senate passed legislation to extend Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) funding from June 30 through July 14. The bill, sent to President Trump for his signature, can be seen here.

RCPA is requesting members to contact their state legislators and ask them to reach out to Governor Wolf and the Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller, to have them accept the federal extension of CCBHC funding.

The areas in Pennsylvania that have CCBHC facilities are as follows:

  • Philadelphia;
  • Delaware and Montgomery counties;
  • Berks County;
  • Allegheny County;
  • Clearfield, Clarion, and Centre counties; and
  • Bradford County.

Please contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips with any questions.

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PA Senate GOP Warns Lt. Gov. Fetterman to Avoid Repeat of Last Week’s Rule-Breaking – Under The Dome™
Wednesday, July 3, 2019 8:06 am

Maybe Senate Republicans would have “moved on” from June 26’s sad display on the Senate floor, as urged by Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Tuesday, if not for Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, taking a victory lap, of sorts, on Monday evening during MSNBC’s “Hardball” talk show regarding her role in the June 26 state Senate blow-up … and not letting everyone “move on.” Instead, on Tuesday, the Senate GOP – all 28 of them – sent a letter to Fetterman (and provided Wolf with a copy) containing a stern warning he not repeat what even he, in a Twitter post, acknowledged was an intentional violation of the Senate’s Rules (he wrote he allowed Muth to speak “against Senate rules”).

In addition to stating in their letter that a recurrence of his “usurping legislative authority” and his “self-righteous defiance of the Rules” would immediately result in him being replaced as presiding officer, as per the Senate’s rules, the Senate GOP wrote that he should refrain from ever again mistreating the Senate’s Parliamentarian/Secretary, Megan Martin. Lost in Muth’s narrative that the GOP was trying to silence her – a woman – on June 26 is the fact that Fetterman as presiding officer of the Senate dismissed and ignored Martin – the first woman elected (unanimously) as the Senate’s parliamentarian – as she attempted on several occasions, during the chamber’s June 26 blow-up, to indicate to him his next appropriate actions, as per the Senate’s rules.

But maybe that’s a bit too nuanced for some, particularly those who act like or suggest the facts are only opinions – and simply to be ignored – when they don’t support the partisan political narrative they’re trying to advance?

Questions, please contact Jack Phillips.

Capitolwire: Gov. Wolf signs into law bill allowing Pennsylvania to operate its own health insurance exchange, create reinsurance program.

By Alyssa Biederman
PLCA Intern

HARRISBURG (July 2) – Legislation hoping to make health insurance more accessible and less expensive for Pennsylvanians was signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Tom Wolf.

“This bill is a huge step toward making health insurance affordable and effective for all Pennsylvanians,” said Wolf, indicating the hope is for the new law to make it so “everyone pays less.”

House Bill 3 was a bi-partisan effort to allow Pennsylvania to create its own state-run health insurance exchange, which will minimize Federal costs and allow the state to subsidize premiums.

HB3 prime sponsor and House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said healthcare is an issue for everyone, regardless of political party, that has to be solved.

“For too long people have been frustrated with healthcare,” Cutler, a former X-Ray technician, said. “Instead of focusing on making things better, we too often focus on what things cost.”

He added that the enactment of this bill — which will be effective for the Fall 2020 open enrollment and insurance coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2021 — will “significantly” decrease costs for Pennsylvania’s more than 400,000 private health insurance consumers that currently obtain their insurance from the federally-run exchange.

The bill will achieve this by transferring Pennsylvania’s existing health insurance exchange from federal to state control. Becoming state-run, Wolf said, will save money that will ultimately be used to decrease the amount health insurance consumers have to pay each month.

Pennsylvania has relied on the federal health insurance exchange since the implementation of 2010’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. According to the Wolf administration, to cover costs, the federal government charges insurers a 3.5-percent fee on premiums paid by ACA enrollees each month, a projected $98 million for Pennsylvania insurers in 2019. This user fee is expected to be cut to 3 percent beginning in 2020, which would equate to approximately $88 million dollars from Pennsylvania insurers. Eliminating the need for insurers to pay that fee will allow for a redirection of that funding to help pay for a reinsurance program, which will allow insurers to price their products lower by limiting their exposure to very high, unpredictable medical expenses incurred by their members; the reinsurance program covers some of those expenses when they exceed a certain threshold.

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said she believes this change will incentivize more Pennsylvanians to apply for health insurance in the state.

Altman added that although the signing of the bill is a step forward, the state must continue to make health insurance more accessible.

“The passage of this legislation is analogous to registering for a marathon,” Altman said. “The race is still before us. We have a lot of training to do and roads to run before we reach the finish line.”

Cutler said he is confident that Pennsylvania’s four legislative caucuses will be able to keep passing legislation that will improve Pennsylvania’s health insurance landscape after seeing the collaboration that went into HB3. The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate last week.

This plan was inspired by an executive order by President Donald Trump which provided states with more flexibility regarding the operation of their own health insurance exchanges.

“Regardless of how you feel about the status of things in Washington, D.C., we have a responsibility to govern here in Pennsylvania,” said Cutler. “That’s what this bill demonstrates better than anything else.”

Questions, please contact Jack Phillips.