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Authors Posts by Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips

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Mr. Phillips is responsible to assist the association with health policy, which primarily includes member communication and advocacy with the Governor’s office, General Assembly, and state regulatory agencies. Mr. Phillips was most recently at the Pennsylvania Department of State as Director of Legislative Affairs.

By Robert Swift, Staff Writer, Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (July 26) – The proposed $26 billion national opioid legal settlement creates a new pot of money that could help shape state budgets for years to come.

Pennsylvania’s share of the settlement announced last week by State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is anticipated at $1 billion provided in payments over a number of years.

A key factor determining Pennsylvania’s share is how many local governments opt to participate in the settlement and drop their own opioid lawsuits.

The settlement with Johnson & Johnson, an opioid manufacturer, and three major opioid distributors – Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen — is designed to resolve nearly 4,000 lawsuits filed by states and local governments responding to a wave of opioid overdose deaths and addictions across the nation.

The settlement also requires the four firms to take a number of steps to prevent a future opioid crisis.

“This settlement puts in place controls that will go a long way to make sure that this never happens again, and the money that will come to Pennsylvania will help offer and expand life-saving treatment options across our Commonwealth,” said Shapiro.

Earlier this month, Shapiro announced a $4.5 billion multi-state settlement with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma to settle lawsuits. Pennsylvania’s share from this settlement is $225 million.

The opioid settlements come two decades after Pennsylvania and a number of states reached a settlement with the tobacco industry to address the public costs of chronic health issues caused by smoking.

The new state Fiscal Code (House Bill 1348) establishes the Opioid Settlement Restricted Account from which deposited settlement money will be distributed through legislation. This account is under the state treasurer’s office.

Shapiro said a substantial amount of the second settlement money would be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.

The dollar share for each participating state is determined by a formula that includes the number of overdose deaths, number of residents with a substance abuse disorder, quantity of opioids delivered and population.

Pennsylvania reported 5,172 overdose deaths last year as the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Pennsylvania plans to sign the agreement while local governments have up to five months to sign. Pennsylvania will get its maximum share provided full participation by local governments.

The state/local distribution will depend upon an intrastate allocation agreement.

“The Wolf Administration commends the work of the Attorney General in reaching this historic settlement,” said Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger. “We hope that states and localities will opt into the settlement so that Pennsylvania can maximize the benefits and direct new resources into mitigating the continuing damaging effects of the opioid epidemic here in the commonwealth.”

The Republican caucuses that control the General Assembly already have some ideas for targeting the money.

“The caucus leaders of the House and Senate are working with the Attorney General to determine next steps and how to best appropriate the nearly $1 billion in funds allocated to Pennsylvania as part of the opioid settlement…” said Erica Clayton Wright, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland. “Based on that agreement, we will identify ways the funds can be used for state and local governments to put measures in place to help prevent such a crisis from happening again while also offering treatment options to communities currently effected by the crisis.”

The settlement is drawing pushback from some local officials.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner quickly sued Shapiro’s office over the settlement saying the money coming to Philadelphia would be too little to address the costs and the payments too slow.

A Cambria County lawmaker said his county should receive a fair share from the settlement since it’s among the hardest hit by overdoses and pill dumping.

“We know all too well the damage these pills have done – everyone in our areas has been affected in one way or the other,” said Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria. “If we’re stuck dealing with the problem, when the settlement comes, we should be getting the bulk of that money to correct the devastation caused by the influx of these pills to our community.”

Cambria is regularly listed in the top five counties in per capita overdose deaths while a 2018 study found Cambria the most saturated county with shipments of opioid painkiller pills, said Burns.

The story with the state Tobacco Settlement Fund could offer clues to how the Opioid Settlement Fund would work.

The multi-state tobacco settlement was reached in 1998 with a main goal of reducing smoking, especially among youth. The settlement placed no requirements or restrictions on how state spend their annual tobacco payments, according to an analysis by the House Democratic Appropriations Committee.

Three years later, the tobacco fund was created under Act 77 of 2001 after lawmakers debated various spending proposals.

The state budget typically sets percentages for distribution of some $350 million in annual tobacco money to a range of programs.

Since 2001, there have been appropriations for such programs as tobacco use prevention and cessation, aid to hospitals, health research grants and Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities and aid to help biotechnology programs to name a few.

The state budget for Fiscal Year 2017/18 authorized borrowing against $1.5 billion in future tobacco payments to help balance the budget.

In 2018, Shapiro announcement a settlement with tobacco firms to resolve two decades of disputes relating to the original settlement. This provided a cash infusion to the fund.

The new state fiscal code creates some new beneficiaries for tobacco funds, including spinal cord injury research, pediatric cancer research and capital and equipment grants to entities engaging in biotechnology research.

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If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips, Director of Government Affairs.

RCPA has been notified that a proposal was recently delivered to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and the designated standing committees of the PA House and Senate for review.

Specifically, the Department of Human Services (DHS), under the authority of section 403.1(a)(6) of the Human Services Code (code) (62 P.S. § 403.1(a)(6)), proposes to amend §1101.51 (relating to ongoing responsibilities of providers). The proposed rulemaking will amend §1101.51 by rescinding subsection (c)(3), which prohibits providers from leasing or renting space, shelves, or equipment within a provider’s office to another provider or from allowing the paid or unpaid staff of a provider to be placed in another provider’s office (i.e. co-location).

The proposal can be viewed on IRRC’s website. The proposal was also published in the June 26, 2021 edition of the PA Bulletin.

The rulemaking has a 30-day public comment period that closes on July 26, 2021. If IRRC has any comments on the proposal, they must be submitted to DHS by August 25, 2021. Below are instructions for submitting comments to DHS.

Interested persons are invited to submit written comments, suggestions, or objections regarding this proposed rulemaking to the Department of Human Services, Office of Medical Assistance Programs, c/o Regulations Coordinator, Room 515, Health and Welfare Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120, within 30 calendar days after the date of publication of this proposed rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Reference Regulation No. 14-549 when submitting comments.

Persons with a disability who require an auxiliary aid or service may submit comments by using the Pennsylvania Hamilton Relay Service at (800) 654-5984 (TDD users) or (800) 654-5988 (voice users). Please note that any comments submitted to the Department will be shared with IRRC and the committees and will be posted to IRRC’s website.

If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips, Director of Government Affairs.

As we reported in Monday’s Budget Overview Alert, the PA General Assembly and the Governor came to an agreement to repeal the Governor’s PA Overtime Rule. As you may recall, RCPA was part of a wide-ranging coalition headed up by the PA Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Coalition sought to halt the enactment of this onerous rule. The PA Overtime Rule became effective on January 1, 2021, and implementation would have begun in October.

Prior to its repeal, health and human service providers for the past six-months and during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic had to plan to comply with both the Federal and PA Overtime Rules. Under the PA Overtime Rule, RCPA members had to plan for:

  • Raising their employee’s salary threshold on October 3, 2021. In October 2021, salaried workers earning $40,560/yr, or about $780/week, would have needed to receive a salary increase to at least this amount or be classified as non-exempt;
  • There would have been another increase on October 3, 2022. In October 2022, the employee salary threshold would have been raised to $45,500/yr, or about $875/week;
  • Plan for another automatic increase in October 2023 and every three years thereafter (i.e. after 2023, the next increase will occur in 2026); and
  • The employer would still have to show the employee still met both the salary test and the duties test to qualify as exempt.

If you recall, the Federal Department of Labor published its final rule on Friday, September 27, 2019. The Federal rule:

  • Raised the salary threshold from the current $23,660 ($455/week) to $35,568 ($684/week);
  • Became effective 1-1-2020;
  • Did not automatically update or change the duties test; and
  • Allowed nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions to satisfy up to 10 percent of the salary requirement.

RCPA applauds the General Assembly and the Governor for repealing this duplicative and unnecessary rule.

If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips, Director of Government Affairs.

Today, we received the below email from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) concerning the Provider Relief Fund.


Dear Stakeholder,

The Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Reporting Portal is now open for providers who need to report on the use of funds in Reporting Period 1. HRSA is committed to supporting the providers who have received PRF payments in completing their reporting requirements successfully. We communicated with providers this morning and we want to share that message with you.

To aid stakeholders as they support their networks, we have created two resources that contain easy-to-share information like a general email, newsletter, and social media content:

In addition, there are resources specifically for providers:

Provider Support Line at (866) 569-3522 for TTY dial 711. Hours of operation are 8:00 am to 10:00 pm CT, Monday–Friday.

HRSA will host a recorded webcast on July 8, 2021 at 3:00 pm ET to provide technical assistance on reporting requirements for PRF recipients and interested stakeholders. Interested parties can register to attend here. We hope you can join us and help spread the word.

We will be in touch as additional resources are developed in the future. Thank you for all you are doing to help your communities throughout this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you,

The Office of Provider Support

On Friday, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed SB255, the 2021–22 General Appropriations bill, by a vote of 140-61 in the House and a vote of 43-7 in the Senate.

The accompanying budget code bills also passed on Friday. The Tax Code Bill, HB952, passed 46-4 in the Senate, 170-31 in the House. The Administrative Code, HB336, passed 28-22 in the Senate, 112-89 in the House, and the Fiscal Code, HB1348, passed 42-8 in the Senate and 168-33 in the House. The final code bill, the Public School Code, SB381, passed 154-47 in the House and 40-10 in the Senate.

The planned General Fund budget will spend $40.2 billion, which includes some Federal stimulus monies. The budget only appropriates approximately $2 billion out of the $7.3 billion in federal stimulus dollars. The state Department of Human Services (DHS) budget line-items are set to grow by $1.8 billion, or 11.7 percent.

While not everyone in the General Assembly was happy with the end product, the Governor is expected to sign the budget bills before June 30.

For your convenience, RCPA has compiled a summary of the Administrative and Fiscal Codes and a breakdown of the specific DHS line-items relevant to RCPA members. As more information comes to light concerning how DHS will spend these appropriations on health and human service programs, RCPA will update the membership.

If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips, Director of Government Affairs.

The U.S. Treasury has released an FAQ document for potential uses of the county American Rescue Plan (ARP) monies. Providers should take note of sections 2.5 through 2.11 for possible health and human services applicability.

If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips.

Capitolwire: Gov. Wolf’s COVID-19 Disaster Emergency Declaration Will Come to an End Once PA Certifies the May 18 Primary Election Results

By Chris Comisac, Bureau Chief, Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (June 10) — Led mostly by the bodies’ Republican majorities, the state House of Representatives and Senate on Thursday approved a concurrent resolution to terminate Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration.

Additionally, the General Assembly sent to the governor legislation that would to give executive agencies an extension, until Sept. 30 of this year, of the regulatory flexibility they have had under the governor’s COVID-19 disaster declaration for more than a year.

“The people of Pennsylvania have spoken and our members have turned their vote on May 18th into action by exercising the will of the people to immediately terminate the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, author of House Resolution 106. “With Pennsylvania rapidly returning to normal thanks to a legislative-led vaccine rollout and the need to keep our economy on a track to vigorously reopen, we did not want to wait a minute longer to terminate this emergency disaster declaration that has been responsible for so much economic devastation over the last 16 months.”

Republicans noted Wolf has already lifted nearly all of his mitigation orders, with the masking mandate to end before the end of June, while vaccination rates continue to climb as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have been dropping dramatically for several weeks – all suggesting the emergency has passed, and it’s now time for the General Assembly and governor to work together to address matters going forward.

The resolution was amended both Wednesday evening and then again Thursday morning (a technical fix to the measure) by the Senate prior to that chamber’s vote later Thursday morning, a 30-20 tally that saw one Democrat – Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton – join the Senate’s Republicans and Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne, in adopting the concurrent resolution.

In a statement issued following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said: “Delivering on its promise to the people of Pennsylvania who voted ‘Yes’ on the ballots in the primary election, the Senate officially voted today to end the COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration. A collective effort by the legislative and executive branches resulted in actions that terminated the current emergency declaration while preserving the health and safety of Pennsylvanians. The extension of waivers provides health care and economic flexibilities to protect Pennsylvania families, especially our elderly and vulnerable populations, while ending the most stringent and unnecessary restrictions still in place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This vote restores liberty by helping to reinstitute legislative powers throughout times of an emergency by giving the general assembly a seat at the table. Pennsylvanians deserve a government that works for them, and the senate looks forward to continuing to do its part to lead this effort and in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians.”

Senate Democrats, as they did Wednesday evening in committee when considering HR106, questioned the authority by which senators were voting on the resolution when the state has yet to certify the results of the May 18 primary which saw voters approve two constitutional amendments limiting some of the governor’s disaster declaration power and giving the General Assembly the ability to terminate a declaration by majority vote on a concurrent resolution by both chambers.

The results have yet to be certified by the Pennsylvania Department of State, but GOP lawmakers noted that would likely occur during the next few days, since counties had until this past Monday to certify their results to the state agency.

Concerns about the future of programs and services that have been delivered by use of executive order under the authority of the COVID-19 disaster declaration, as well as federal funding providing those services and benefits to Pennsylvanians, were likewise expressed by Democrats who claimed the emergency isn’t over, people are still suffering and it remains unknown if the COVID-19 situation could worsen as it did last year.

Some House Democrats attempted to minimize the importance or meaning of the HR106 vote – which saw eight House Democrats join all House Republicans in adopting the measure 121-81 – with House Minority Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, repeatedly saying during his floor remarks before the vote, “This resolution does absolutely nothing.”

And Bill Patton, press secretary for House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, sent an email to members of the press suggesting that as reporters write about the HR106 vote, “if you happen to reference the May 18 vote on statewide ballot questions 1 and 2 please know that neither one got more than 52% approval (51.7 and 51.8 to be more precise). Slightly higher numbers were reported early on when the counting was incomplete but the latest tally is available here [Pennsylvania Elections – Summary Results (pa.gov)]. While there’s no question about the outcome on May 18, the numbers do still carry some weight. Also please bear in mind these numbers have not yet been certified.”

A source who wished to remain anonymous reacted to the comments about the constitutional amendment vote totals by pointing out President Joe Biden only received 51.3 percent of the national popular vote in the 2020 presidential election, and only 50.01 percent of Pennsylvania’s vote – with both percentages less than what was cast for the constitutional amendments on May 18 (and a slightly greater percentage opposed to Biden in Pennsylvania than those opposed to the ballot questions) – but Biden still won Pennsylvania and he’s still president.

Responding to the floor remarks of Harris and other House Democrats, Benninghoff observed during his closing remarks prior to the HR106 vote, “I think there is a little merit to wondering, at least on my part, why people have spent so much time and energy dialoging about something they say means nothing – how do you fight so much about something that means nothing? It has to mean something.”

The General Assembly’s actions seemed to mean something to the governor and his administration.

“Over the last few weeks the administration has worked hard to educate and inform the general assembly of the risks associated with ending the Covid disaster declaration prematurely,” said Wolf spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger in an email reacting to Thursday’s votes. “The governor is disappointed that the Republican-controlled General Assembly has not taken action to extend the disaster declaration. To avoid serious consequences, the administration will do everything it can to work with the federal government to try to maintain federal funding in the absence of a declaration. Now, when the election is certified, and the constitutional amendments become effective, the COVID-19 disaster declaration will be terminated.”

However, Kensinger said the administration welcomed the General Assembly keeping the various COVID-19 waivers put in place by his administration.

“The administration appreciates that the General Assembly agreed with the administration’s recommendations on the significance of keeping the important regulatory suspensions associated with Covid disaster declaration provisions in place,” said Kensinger. “The governor plans to sign the bill.”

The bill in question – House Bill 854 – was unanimously approved by lawmakers in both chambers Thursday, and grants an extension, until Sept. 30, 2021, existing regulatory flexibilities authorized by various executive agencies as part of the COVID-19 disaster declaration.

“Over the past 16 months, Pennsylvania’s regulatory framework has been upended,” said Benninghoff. “As our economy continues to emerge from the effects of government-induced shutdowns and our health care community continues to be reliant on existing flexibilities, I was glad to see both chambers quickly come together to effectively manage the remaining days of the pandemic.”

Regarding HB854, Sen. Yudichak said the bill “protects access to critical federal funding and waivers that benefit health and safety, such as the emergency authorization of telemedicine, temporary staffing at nursing homes and personal care homes, and other staffing issues in health care facilities.

Added Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster: “While many of the provisions in the Governor’s COVID-19 mitigation orders were overburdensome, arbitrary, and unfair, there were some provisions like the telemedicine waiver that we all agree have improved the lives of Pennsylvanians throughout the last year. We voted today to ensure that these provisions remain in place as our Commonwealth continues to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of this pandemic.”

By Robert Swift, Staff Writer, Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (June 9) – A Senate-passed bill to expand eligibility for a medical assistance program for working individuals with disabilities was approved unanimously Wednesday by the House Health Committee.

Members from both parties call Senate Bill 156 a bipartisan bill.

SB156 which now heads to a floor vote would increase the income eligibility limit from $32,000 to $76,000 annually so more individuals are eligible for the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program.

This would cover newcomers to the program and those defined as a “worker with job success” being age 16 an older, earning at least the minimum wage and meeting federal poverty income guidelines.

MAWD provides disabled workers access to home and community-based services that are important to them, but typically aren’t covered by private insurance.

The worker pays a percentage portion of their income to MAWD to cover health care.

Under SB156 sponsored by Sen. Bob Mensch, R-Lehigh, workers with the job success designation will pay 7.5 percent of their income to cover health care, a 2.5 percent increase above the current rate.

The bill would allow individuals to work to their full potential without fear of losing health benefits, said Mensch. Only 35 percent of people with disabilities are working with only 21 percent of that category working full-time, he added.

Increasing the income limit will improve the quality of life for the disabled, said Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, sponsor of the related House Bill 1115 and of a previous bill that passed the House last session.

If SB156 is enacted, MAWD enrollment will increase by more than 1,000 individuals, according to a state Department of Human Services estimate. This is based on the number of MAWD recipients disenrolled due to being over income limits.

A Senate Appropriations Committee fiscal note estimates SB156 would cost $9.7 million with $4.6 million coming from state funds.