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DHS and DOH Close out State Budget Hearings, Hospital Assessment and Opioids Discussed

March 28, 2018

The Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee held the final hearing about Governor Wolf’s 2018–2019 state budget proposal. Secretary of the Department of Human Services (DHS), Teresa Miller and Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH), Dr. Rachel Levine, were joined by members of their staff to answers questions from committee members.

Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), began the hearing by questioning DHS about the hospital Quality Care Assessment (QCA).  Specifically, she questioned the administration’s proposed take of an additional $130 million from the program to help balance the state’s general fund. Noting the state currently takes $220 million, Senator Baker expressed concern over the appropriateness of increasing that amount by 60 percent in one year. 

“I want to thank Senator Baker and the committee for their interest in the assessment,” said Andy Carter, president and CEO of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. “We strongly believe that moving the additional $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 during 2010.”

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, while the administration estimated a $600 million cost for implementing work requirements, the main concern was the loss of health care to individuals receiving Medicaid.  However, DHS still is in the midst of researching Medicaid claims data to understand the population for which work requirements are proposed.

Additionally, committee members inquired as to what the departments are doing to address the opioid epidemic. As part of the emergency declaration and the central command center, three categories are emphasized; opioid stewardship, the use of revival or rescue drugs, and treatment. Dr. Levine also discussed the 21st Century Cures Act funding being used for six regional meetings focused on warm handoffs in communities. These meetings are aimed at helping to fill the gaps in the warm handoff process, expanding use of medication assisted treatment, and using centers of excellence.

Finally, several members inquired about the ongoing efforts around agency consolidation.  Secretary Miller spoke to the administration’s effort to identify “back-office” operations like information technology, human resources, and procurement procedures. The consolidation is being approached in three phases; engaging stakeholders and creating a proposal, passing legislation, and envisioning the future of the state agency.

In the wake of the budget hearings, work now begins through negotiations between the legislature and the administration. HAP continues to be involved in the QCA conversation and in efforts to maintain Medicaid supplemental lines for obstetrics and neonatal intensive care units, critical access hospitals, and trauma and burn centers.

For more information, please contact Scott Bishop, senior vice president, legislative advocacy, or Stephanie Watkins, vice president, state legislative advocacy. For specific QCA 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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