Govt. Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 5, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today urged residents to get their flu vaccine at the start of flu season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“Every flu season is different, but this flu season leaves a lot of unknowns,” Dr. Levine said. “One thing we do know is the flu is serious and can be deadly, which is why it is extremely important that Pennsylvanians are receiving their flu vaccine now. In addition to getting your flu vaccine, it is essential to take other preventative measures to protect yourself from the spread of the flu. There is no better measure to protect yourself from flu than to get a flu vaccine.”

This year, both the flu shot and nasal spray are available and recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older to protect against the flu. The flu vaccine can often diminish the severity of symptoms and the duration of symptoms a person might experience should they come down with the flu.

“It is still safe to visit your doctor’s office, pharmacy, local walk-in clinic or grocery store to get your flu vaccine,” said Dr. Levine. “The vaccine process is quick, easy and helps protect not only yourself, but anyone you may come into contact with this flu season. We recommend doing so before flu activity begins in your community, ideally before the end of October.”

Seasonal influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness, caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the nose, throat and lungs and may include the following symptoms:

  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Tiredness;
  • Dry cough;
  • Sore throat;
  • Nasal congestion; and
  • Body aches.

Similarly, COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever;
  • Cough;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Chills;
  • Repeated shaking with chills;
  • Muscle pain;
  • Headache;
  • Sore throat; and
  • New loss of taste or smell.

Since symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 may be similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. The best way to prevent respiratory illness at this time is to get the flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks for the antibodies from the vaccine to develop protection against infection. This small but powerful action will protect your family, friends and frontline health care workers who will be caring for sick people with respiratory illnesses this fall and winter.

In addition to getting vaccinated, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to practice healthy habits like covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands during flu season and remembering to disinfect commonly-touched objects, such as door knobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers.

If you do become sick with the flu, it is important to stay home and rest. If you are at risk for developing serious complications from the flu, or feel extremely ill, you should see a medical professional immediately.

Additional information on how to stay healthy and prevent the flu can be found on the Department of Health’s website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Nate Wardle, ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

GIFA 20-05 Pregnancy Support Service

DDAP is accepting applications for providers who will provide pregnancy support services or make referrals to address the needs of pregnant and postpartum women with stimulant or opioid misuse issues. In addition, these community providers will facilitate or make referrals for outpatient Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and stimulant misuse treatment.

Applications shall be submitted via email through Friday, October 30, 2020 by 12:00 PM.

FIA 20-04 Police Diversion to Treatment

DDAP is accepting applications from SCAs who shall expand or create a collaborative between local law enforcement, treatment professionals and recovery support providers to establish a diversion program. Active and engaged relationships with the local District Attorney, identified local police departments, Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment providers, Stimulant Use Disorder treatment providers, and Certified Recovery Specialists (CRS) shall be foundational to such an initiative. Rather than experiencing legal consequences from stimulant or opioid misuse issues, individuals shall receive treatment and support services for the underlying cause of the arrest.

Applications shall be submitted via email through Friday, October 23, 2020 by 12:00 PM.

 

For more information about funding opportunities visit our website.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Aging today reminded consumers that the annual open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries will begin Thursday, October 15, 2020, and end Monday, December 7, 2020. Any new coverage selected takes effect January 1, 2021.

During open enrollment, new Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug coverage and health plans to complement Medicare, and current Medicare beneficiaries can review and join, switch, or drop Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Coverage so that it better meets their needs.

In order to help Medicare beneficiaries sort through their options, the Department of Aging offers free, objective health benefits counseling through the APPRISE Program, which is designed to counsel and encourage Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers to make informed health care coverage decisions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, counseling sessions will be conducted over the phone, virtually, or, at the discretion of the Area Agencies on Aging, face-to-face with proper health and safety precautions in place.

“Navigating any kind of health care option can be confusing, tedious and overwhelming. Whether an older adult is a new Medicare beneficiary or interested in learning all their coverage options, we encourage all seniors to take advantage of the free independent counseling services available through APPRISE,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “The trained APPRISE counselors can guide beneficiaries through their choices and help them be more informed and confident in deciding what may be the best option for them.”

With almost 800 trained counselors in the commonwealth, the APPRISE Program provides free, confidential, objective, and easy-to-understand information about Medicare Advantage Plans, prescription drug plans, and Medicare Supplement plans, and allows Medicare beneficiaries to compare plans and determine what best meets their needs. In 2019, 148,423 of the commonwealth’s 2.7 million Medicare beneficiaries were advised by APPRISE counselors.

Many APPRISE volunteer counselors started off as Medicare beneficiaries with questions or concerns about their coverage who, after receiving assistance through APPRISE, wanted to learn more about how they could share that knowledge with others. APPRISE volunteer counselors receive free training about Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, Medicare prescription drug coverage, appeals, fraud, abuse, and more.

To learn more about the APPRISE Program or becoming a volunteer, click here or to find an open enrollment event in your area call the APPRISE Helpline at 1-800-783-7067.

Medicare beneficiaries can also complete their own plan comparisons by using the Medicare plan finder tool or calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jack Eilber, 717-214-7510, agingcomms@pa.gov

On Saturday, October 3, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin its final rule regarding overtime pay under the Minimum Wage Act. The entire rule can be found on the Pennsylvania Bulletin’s website. The new rule will be effective January 1, 2021.

The highlights of L&I’s final rule are as follows:

  • Raises the salary threshold.
  • Automatic increases in 2021, 2022 and 2023 and every three years thereafter (i.e. after 2023 the next increase will occur in 2026).
  • The employee still must meet 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:

  • raises the salary threshold from the current $23,660 ($455/week) to $35,568 ($684/week);
  • was effective January 1, 2020;
  • includes no automatic updates or changes to the duties test; and
  • allow nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions to satisfy up to 10 percent of the salary requirement.

RCPA is continuing to work with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and others to work on other options to counter the Governor’s new rule. RCPA and its coalition members are disappointed that the Governor has taken this step during the pandemic when health and human service providers and businesses are struggling to keep their doors open.

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

Workforce Development is excited to announce a total redesign of the public-facing PA CareerLink® pages. Changes are being implemented on October 9, 2020, to meet the workforce’s current and future business needs. The redesign meets specific requests from the Governor’s Advisory board to enhance and modernize the consumer experience by focusing on accessibility, facilitating a human-centered design approach, and tailoring information to target audiences.

What’s new with PA CareerLink®?

The redesign includes 10 brand new pages. Individual job seeker services will now be tailored on six new Persona pages for Veterans, Individuals with Disabilities, Mature Workers, Job Seekers, Student and Youth Workers, and Individuals Re-entering the Workforce. Four new Office Pages have also been designed to increase awareness and make resources more accessible for 57 PA CareerLink® offices across the Commonwealth. Job seekers and employers can now view available services, events, and career opportunities specific to their local area. All four PA CareerLink® Homepages have been updated to showcase the available services for Individuals, Training Providers, and Employers using a new brand-compliant theme and imagery.

The redesigned PA CareerLink® pages will provide:

  • Increased visibility into publicly available resources for job seekers
  • Persona-based approach to connecting consumers with services
  • Simplified process for job search and PA CareerLink® account registration
  • Increased visibility of office information on standardized Office pages

PA CareerLink® offices will now have their own pages in a standardized format. The office pages will be easy to locate using the new “Find Your Local Office Footer” accessible on all PA CareerLink® public-facing pages. Users will simply choose their county and be directed to the new office page. The office page will outline the available services to employers and individuals, provide a calendar of events specific to the office, highlight the top ten occupations in the area, and provide contact information for that area’s workforce development board.

What’s Next?

Go-live of the redesigned and new PA CareerLink® pages is on October 9, 2020. You can check out the short training video located here which provides a deeper review of the redesigned PA CareerLink®.

The Administration for Community Living sent this message to kick off this month of recognition of the value of people with disabilities in the workforce:

“Today we celebrate the start of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and recognize the often overlooked talents that people with disabilities bring to the workforce.  This is a year of milestone anniversaries for the disability community as we celebrate 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act and 75 years of NDEAM. This year’s NDEAM theme, “increasing access and opportunity,” reflects the impact of these two milestones.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy offers a range of resources to help employers and organizations plan NDEAM observances, including a poster; social media content; activity ideas for each day of the month; and sample articles, press release, and proclamation.  We hope you will take advantage of these resources and join us in celebrating the importance of competitive, integrated employment in the lives of people with disabilities.”

 

Office of the Governor PA WebsiteFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2020

View Online

Harrisburg, PA – Amid the pandemic, rising health care costs and magnified health inequities, Governor Tom Wolf today unveiled a plan that addresses comprehensive health reforms focusing on both physical and behavioral health and promoting affordability, accessibility and value in health care.

I am proposing a health reform package that will make health care more affordable, hold health care corporations accountable and tackle the health inequities resulting from systemic racism,” Gov. Wolf said. “True reform means focusing on every aspect of a person that contributes to their health. Even before the pandemic, there were warning signs that Pennsylvania’s health care system wasn’t working for everyone. Many Pennsylvanians found it hard to pay their medical bills due to rising health care costs, including families who have health care coverage and often have to pay higher premiums and more out-of-pocket costs every year.”

Health care access has historically been more difficult for many, and because of the pandemic, affordability is expected to become a crisis, with more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians expected to become uninsured.

COVID-19 has also worsened the pre-existing inequities that some disadvantaged neighborhoods face, disproportionately hurting Pennsylvanians of color.

Chief Innovation Officer at the Department of Human Services, Dr. Doug Jacobs, outlined the components of the health reform plan and how they will address these issues.

“As a board-certified and practicing internal medicine physician, I see first-hand how affordability and a whole-person approach to care is so crucial to helping Pennsylvanians access the health care they deserve,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Governor Wolf is proposing a whole-person health reform package that will make comprehensive, quality health care more affordable and accessible.”

The three main components of the plan include:

  • Interagency Health Reform Council (IHRC), established with an executive order the governor signed at the press conference today. The council will be composed of commonwealth agencies involved in health and the governor’s office. The initial goal will be to develop recommendations by December 30 to find efficiencies in the health care system by thinking about how to align programs where feasible, including the joint purchasing of medications, aligning value-based purchasing models, and using data across state agencies to promote evidence-based decisions.
  • Regional Accountable Health Councils (RAHCs). The Department of Human Services will add requirements to form five RAHCs across the state into the managed care agreements. RAHCs will be required to collectively develop regional transformation plans – built on community needs assessments – to reduce disparities, address social determinants of health, and align value-based purchasing arrangements.
  • Health Value Commission. The governor will work with the legislature to establish the Health Value Commission, charged with keeping all payors and providers accountable for health care cost growth, to provide the long-term affordability and sustainability of our health care system, and to promote whole-person care. As proposed, the newly created entity would be led by up to 15 commissioners appointed by the governor and the General Assembly who have an expertise in the health care marketplace, including five state agency heads.

Gov. Wolf and Dr. Jacobs were joined at the announcement by Pennsylvania Health Access Network director Antoinette Kraus, home health care aide Hillary Rothrock, and Little Amps owner Peter Leonard.

“Far too many Pennsylvanians put off care or skip tests and treatment because of what’s in their wallets rather than what’s best for their health,” Antoinette Kraus said. “Without reforms that directly address high and rising healthcare costs, families will continue to struggle with getting the care they need without facing financial ruin, and health disparities will also widen. We applaud Governor Wolf for addressing these issues by introducing reforms that will increase transparency, improve health equity, and lower costs.”

“Little Amps has long been striving to find a way to provide high quality health care coverage to our team – my peers in the small business community know just how difficult this can be despite how essential it is to our collective wellbeing,” Peter Leonard said. “It simply is not affordable, and that is unacceptable. We support Governor Wolf’s Whole-Person Health Reform proposal because of its ability to decrease costs and make healthcare more affordable for small businesses like ours.”

“I’m grateful to Governor Wolf for introducing the Whole-Person Health Reform initiative,” Hillary Rothrock said. “So many of us in health care want desperately to provide everything we can for our consumers, but we aren’t given the resources we need. Finding cost savings that can be redirected toward direct care is critically needed.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges that our commonwealth faced prior to this year,” Gov. Wolf said. “We are more aware now of how precarious many systems we all took for granted are, and how the inequities that exist in those systems harm some of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. We need to take these actions now to make sure that health care is affordable and accessible for every Pennsylvanian, and to guarantee that the care Pennsylvanians receive is valuable and of high quality.”

MEDIA CONTACT:    Lyndsay Kensinger, ra-gvgovpress@pa.gov

On September 30, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee (of the Energy & Commerce (E&C) Committee) held a virtual hearing (Pathway to a Vaccine: Ensuring a Safe and Effective Vaccine People Will Trust) with public health experts on the continued oversight of the development and safety of potential COVID-19 vaccines. Key witnesses from the hearing included:

  • Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H., Co-Chair, Committee on Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
  • Ashish K. Jha, Dean, M.D., M.P.H., Dean, School of Public Health, Brown University
  • Ali S. Kahn, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., Dean, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director, Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke University
  • Paul A. Offit, M.D., Director, Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

 

The E&C website contains the videos from the hearing. The key takeaways from the hearing include:

  • There are many safeguards in place for a COVID-19 vaccine approval process;
  • All the guardrails in place should make it difficult to politicize the COVID-19 vaccine approval process;
  • The emergency use authorization process is similar to full approval;
  • Unlike Russia and China, the United States is only going to approve or authorize COVID-19 vaccines with large phase 3 clinical trials that meet high safety and efficacy standards;
  • No corners are being cut; and
  • States are not able to replicate FDA’s gold standard of vaccine review.