Govt. Affairs

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(From DHS news room)

Wolf Administration: Trump-Proposed Cuts to Federal Health Programs Jeopardize Access to Life-Saving Health Care

Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration today spoke out against potential cuts contained in President Trump’s proposed federal budget, which would significantly change Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. In total, these programs help more than 5.5 million older, working, and low-income Pennsylvanians access routine and life-saving health care.

Under President Trump’s proposed budget, Medicaid expansion, which currently covers nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians, would be eliminated. Medicaid would also be converted from an entitlement program that provides coverage to all who are eligible to block grant allocated to states based on a per-person funding cap.

“Medicaid allows more than 2.8 million Pennsylvanians to access health care coverage that would otherwise be unaffordable or inaccessible. Changing the program to a block grant system and eliminating the Medicaid expansion would result in significant losses of coverage and more people being unable to access the care they need to stay healthy,” said Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller.

The federal budget also proposes a nationwide work requirement for able-bodied, working-age Medicaid recipients, requiring them to find work, train for work, or volunteer in order to maintain coverage. This requirement would be similar to what is in place for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, a program the Wolf Administration is currently redesigning to address barriers to employment and encourage better long-term employment outcomes for TANF recipients.

“A work requirement doesn’t get a person a job — let alone a family sustaining job. It jeopardizes their access to health care and other essential needs, and without the investment needed to assist them to address the factors that can hold them back, they continue to be stuck in a cycle of poverty and poor health,” said Secretary Miller. “Governor Wolf is redesigning Pennsylvania’s employment and training programs to better address the barriers that prevent people from obtaining family-sustaining jobs. The federal government should follow this work rather than creating another barrier to good health.”

The President’s proposed budget also encourages implementing the ACA replacement proposed by Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, which would end protections against inflated pricing for older consumers, tax credits for plans purchased through the health insurance exchange, and essential health benefits, among others. The plan was previously called a step backwards by the Wolf Administration in 2017.

“Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate is at an all-time low of just 5.5 percent, down from more than double digits before the Affordable Care Act took effect. Governor Wolf and I continue to strive to ensure all Pennsylvanians have access to coverage that is both affordable and comprehensive. Unfortunately, this budget would move in the opposite direction,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “We need to build upon the progress we have made, and not look to policies like those contained in President Trump’s budget proposal that could jeopardize the coverage gains we have made and the health care programs millions of Pennsylvanians rely on.”

Commissioner Altman noted for 2019, the aggregate statewide premium for individual ACA plans fell by 2.3 percent, a new insurer entered the state, and consumers in 30 counties had more options than in 2018, all indicating Pennsylvania’s individual health insurance market is moving toward stabilization.

“Under the Older Americans Act, the Department of Aging is responsible for serving as a visible and effective advocate on behalf of older Pennsylvanians,” said Acting Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “President Trump’s proposed budget is the antithesis of what our seniors need and deserve.”

The budget proposes a 20% decrease in funding to the National Family Caregiver Support Program, a 26% percent decrease in funding to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, and the elimination of funding for the Senior Community Services Employment Program and Elder Falls Prevention.

The administration called on President Trump and Congress to work together on federal health plans that break down barriers to work without jeopardizing vulnerable Pennsylvanians’ access to health care.

“Although this proposal is unlikely to pass Congress in this form, the spirit of this proposed budget still presents a cruel agenda that would jeopardize access to quality health care, making it more difficult for millions of Pennsylvanians,” said Secretary Miller. “Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act are lifelines, and the federal government must recognize the important role they play in many lives and strengthen these programs so they may continue to help people live healthy, productive lives for years to come.”

MEDIA CONTACT:   Ali Fogarty – 717.425.7606
Ron Ruman, PID – 717.787.3289
Drew Wilburne, Aging – 717.705.3702

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RCPA will be monitoring the federal budget in conjunction with our national associations and will inform members about any important updates. Further questions may be directed to Jack Phillips.

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CALLING ALL GOLFERS!

It’s time to register for RCPA PAC’s 6th annual golf outing at the beautiful Hershey Country Club, 1000 East Derry Road, Hershey, PA 17033 on Thursday, May 9! Registration starts at 10:30 am, lunch begins at 11:00 am, followed by a putting contest and 12:30 pm shotgun start.

Golf outing sponsorships are also available. We hope you will consider becoming a golf sponsor. It is a great way for your organization to get noticed and an opportunity to support a worthwhile cause.

The RCPA PAC raises money and supports campaigns of state legislators who work tirelessly on issues that benefit mental health, intellectual disabilities, children’ services, substance use disorder treatment and services, brain injuries, medical and vocational rehabilitation, physical disabilities and aging, and other related human services. The funds raised through RCPA PAC can make the difference between a win and a loss on an issue or assist in making a new ally. Even if you can’t be a strong contributor to RCPA PAC fundraising efforts, we all have friends and business associates who are interested in helping our allies to victory. Getting involved in RCPA PAC not only allows you to help make decisions on who the committee supports, but also helps to identify new folks who will join in our successes. Further questions may be directed to Jack Phillips, RCPA Director of Government Affairs.

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Recently, the Federal Department of Labor (DOL) announced its new proposed overtime rule. The DOL is proposing to raise the overtime threshold from the current level of $23,600 ($455/week) up to $35,308 ($679/week).

In 2016, President Obama’s overtime proposal would have taken the threshold to $47,476 ($913/week), and Governor Wolf’s 2018 proposal would take it to $47,892 ($921/week). Unlike previous proposals, the rule is not expected to include an automatic escalator.

More information about the proposed rule is available online. The DOL encourages any interested members of the public to submit comments about the proposed rule electronically at this website, in the rulemaking docket RIN 1235-AA20. Once the rule is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments for those comments to be considered.

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

The Coalition to Preserve Behavioral HealthChoices, which includes RCPA, has signed onto a letter that will be sent out to members of the General Assembly stating “strong opposition to House Bill 335.” This bill calls for elimination of the Behavioral Health Carve-Out, known as Behavioral HealthChoices (BHC). BHC is the statewide program through which every county delivers mental health and drug & alcohol services to vulnerable Pennsylvanians enrolled in the Medical Assistance program, and their families. Please contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips with any questions.

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Yesterday, after Governor Wolf delivered his 2019/20 budget address to the General Assembly, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Human Services (DHS) held a budget briefing updating stakeholders on the status of 2018/19 initiatives and rolling out the Governor’s 2019/20 DOH/DHS budget initiatives. The Governor’s main initiatives for DOH and DHS for the upcoming fiscal year are as follows:

  • Increase the minimum wage;
  • Help low-income working parents support their families;
  • Strengthen high quality care for infants and toddlers;
  • Expand evidence-based home visiting;
  • Expand services for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism on the waiting list;
  • Protect individuals in personal care homes and residential and day-treatment programs;
  • Support Pennsylvanians with disabilities;
  • Invest in mental health services; and
  • Combat the opioid epidemic.

For further information on the above initiatives, please see the DOH and DHS PowerPoint presentations. Questions, contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips.

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Today, Governor Wolf delivered his 2019/20 budget address in front of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Governor’s budget address talked primarily about workforce and education. Specifically, the Governor is not proposing any new tax increases; rather he is focusing on investments in workforce, education, and continuing the fight against opioid abuse.

The Governor’s proposed budget expands access to early childhood education, increases investments in schools, and partners with the private sector to build on the PAsmart initiative, launched last year as a groundbreaking approach to workforce development.

The following are highlights from the Governor’s budget address:

Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center
Tackling the skills gap and creating a well-trained workforce requires government, schools, and industry to work together. PAsmart was the first step, but Governor Wolf wants bolder action. Soon the governor will sign an executive order creating the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. The departments of Community and Economic Development, Labor & Industry, State, and others will partner with external leaders to find solutions that will strengthen our workforce.

“Across the commonwealth, we have workers aging out of our workforce, and too often the next generation of worker is not there or doesn’t have the skills to replace them,” said Governor Wolf. “If we can’t strengthen our workforce, we will fall behind. And we cannot let our government’s response to this problem be handcuffed by stale habit. The time is now for this comprehensive plan for preparing Pennsylvanians to compete and win in our rapidly changing economy.”

Early Childhood Development and Parent Support
Parents cannot work if they lack food, housing, or childcare. To break the cycle of poverty, the governor’s budget invests in early childhood education and removes barriers for low-income parents. The proposal provides $5 million to expand home-visiting programs for pregnant women and at-risk infants and toddlers, $15 million in federal funds to reduce waiting lists for high-quality childcare, and $5 million for wrap-around services so parents can attend college or other training to get skills for family-sustaining jobs.

Continuing Investments in Education and Career Training
The governor’s budget ensures that every student is ready for a career by continuing investments to improve public schools along with more funding for early childhood programs, K-through-12, and higher education. The budget provides increases of $200 million for basic education, $50 million for Pre-K and Head Start, $50 million for special education, $7 million for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and $8 million in one-time grants for community college students or graduates who are working in Pennsylvania.

PAsmart is an innovative and pioneering approach to connecting Pennsylvanians with education and training opportunities, apprenticeships, and STEM careers, and the governor’s budget expands this initiative with an additional $4 million to help Pennsylvania manufacturers train workers and $6 million to expand career and technical education for adults.

Governor Wolf is also proposing to save nearly $120 million over the next two years by raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 an hour on July 1, 2019. The boost in pay for one million workers would enable tens of thousands of people to work their way off of public assistance, reducing the burden on taxpayers who are subsidizing low wages.

To prevent students from falling behind, the governor’s plan lowers the age when students must start attending school from 8 to 6 and increases the dropout age from 17 to 18. The administration will also study the benefits of providing free full day kindergarten to all children starting at age 5.

Contact RCPA Director of Government Affairs Jack Phillips with any questions.

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) introduced the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act of 2019 (HR 873 / S 260). This Act provides states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with the resources to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive, integrated employment. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act is legislation designed to strengthen and enhance the disability employment service delivery systems throughout states while subminimum wages, which are currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, are phased out over a six-year period. Currently, under Section 14(c), employers that obtain a certificate are permitted to hire individuals with disabilities at less than minimum wage. The Act would include some grant money to assist states and certificate holders in transforming their organizations.

Chairman Scott’s press release lists the organizations supporting the bill: “American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), Autism National Committee, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Autism Society of America, Center for Public Representation (CPR), Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), Disability Rights California, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Disability Rights Florida, Disability Rights Iowa, Disability Rights New Mexico, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, Inc., National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS), National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), National Disability Institute (NDI), National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC), National Federation of the Blind (NFB), National Rehabilitation Association, TASH, Inc.”

ACCSES, on the other hand, strongly supports a full array of employment options for people with disabilities, including Section 14(c), and will continue to advocate for providers and people who chose this option. Contact Carol Ferenz, RCPA IDD Division Director, with any questions.

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On Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf announced his list of cabinet nominees. His appointment nominees, which will have to be confirmed by a majority of the State Senate, are as follows:

  • Jessica Altman – Commissioner, Pennsylvania Insurance Department
  • Kathy Boockvar – Secretary of the Commonwealth
  • Major General Anthony Carrelli – Adjutant General, Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
  • Dennis Davin – Secretary, Department of Community and Economic Development
  • Cynthia Dunn – Secretary, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert Evanchick – Commissioner, Pennsylvania State Police
  • Daniel Hassell – Secretary, Department of Revenue
  • Rachel Levine – Secretary, Department of Health
  • Patrick McDonnell – Secretary, Department of Environmental Protection
  • Teresa D. Miller – Secretary, Department of Human Services
  • Gerard Oleksiak – Secretary, Department of Labor & Industry
  • Russel Redding – Secretary, Department of Agriculture
  • Leslie S. Richards – Secretary, Department of Transportation
  • Jennifer Smith – Secretary, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
  • Curt Topper – Secretary, Department of General Services
  • Robert Torres – Secretary, Department of Aging
  • John Wetzel – Secretary, Department of Corrections
  • Robin Wiessmann – Secretary, Department of Banking and Securities

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