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House Committee Hears from Top Health and Human Services Officials about State Budget

March 06, 2018

Teresa Miller, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of the state Department of Human Services (DHS), faced the House Appropriations Committee during an all-day budget hearing about Governor Wolf’s proposed 2018–2019 state budget. Acting Secretary for the Department of Health (DOH) and Pennsylvania’s Physician General, Dr. Rachel Levine, joined the hearing for the second round of questioning.

The line of questioning focused on major programs funded and/or run through DHS and DOH, including the Medicaid program, the hospital quality care assessment (QCA), telemedicine, and opioid epidemic initiatives.

Representative Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) asked about the reauthorization of the hospital QCA. She questioned the department and administration’s proposed budget assumption as it relates to the state’s share of the assessment, currently set at $130 million. The department responded that as a part of the reauthorization process, officials are having an on-going dialogue with HAP and the hospital community about these funds. 

HAP believes that moving the $130 million to the state general fund jeopardizes the hospital QCA program and represents a shift away from the core principles that have guided the program since it was established. HAP will continue to work on this issue with legislators and the administration.

Many committee members inquired about the Governor’s veto of House Bill 59, which included work requirements for those receiving benefits under the Medicaid program. Secretary Miller noted that the administration believes that individuals receiving Medicaid often face multiple barriers to work, even if they are able-bodied adults. DHS is taking a deep dive into Medicaid claims data to understand these barriers, otherwise known as social determinants of health. Such barriers may include, homelessness, poverty, or lack of educational opportunities.

In response to the frustration expressed from committee members about the opioid epidemic, Dr. Levine discussed the 21st Century Cures Act funding being used for six regional meetings focused on warm handoffs in communities. HAP is helping to convene these meetings over the next two months. She also discussed the availability of a public facing dashboard by the end of March, populated by coordinated data received during the declared state of emergency.

Representative Quinn, sponsor of telemedicine legislation, House Bill 1648, also inquired about the use of telemedicine to ensure access to quality care and health care savings. Dr. Levine noted that the DOH has convened a telemedicine advisory committee and DHS encourages the use of telemedicine whenever possible within the Medicaid program for physical and behavioral health services. 

DOH and DHS leaders will face the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow. 

HAP will continue to report on relevant budget hearings and will be working with HAP members around budget strategies.

For more information please contact Scott Bishop, senior vice-president, legislative advocacy or Stephanie Watkins, vice-president, state legislative advocacy. For specific assessment questions please contact Jeff Bechtel, senior vice-president, health economics and policy, or Jolene Calla, Esq., vice-president, health care finance and insurance.

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