Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget-on-parade tour included a visit to Siemens Healthcare, a Chester County medical technology company.
Siemens new CEO Dr. Gregory Sorensen, who invited Corbett to meet with workers there Tuesday, said he wanted to alert the governor to policy issues affecting the health-care industry.
“The federal budget, like many state budgets, is trying to rein in health-care costs by focusing on big-ticket items, like MRI scanners, and the use of those. We’re concerned that by focusing on things that might look expensive but actually provide a lot of value, it could end up hurting the overall health-care system,” Sorensen said.
Part of the funding proposal for the federal Affordable Care Act includes a new 2.3 percent tax on wholesale sales of medical devices.
“We’re not very happy about that tax, and so we’d like to figure out whether the reasons for passing it still make sense today or not,” Sorensen said.
He said Pennsylvania is responsible for delivering — and paying for — a lot of health care, so state funding decisions affect the doctors and hospitals buying Siemens products and, eventually, the firm and its employees.
The firm, which employs nearly 4,000 people at its Malvern, Pa., campus, sells information technology, imaging equipment and other tests to hospitals around the country.
During a tour of the firm’s innovation center, Sorensen pointed out an analyzer that automates some of the work required to process patient samples.
“It replaces some years of training with some technology,” he said.
Corbett said those kinds of innovations “reduce costs for medium and smaller-sized hospitals and research labs.”
“Government has to think along the same lines. How do we do it better?” Corbett said.
Corbett: More jobs vital
The governor, who said he will work for an increase in private-sector jobs to help improve state finances, said private companies know how to set a budget and live within it. He wants Pennsylvania to follow that model.
Corbett also defended his state budget plan, including a proposed 20 percent cut to the state system of Higher Education. That proposal comes after an 18 percent reduction for those schools in the current budget.
“The first thing I hear from higher education is that we have to raise tuition,” Corbett said. “That’s the first thing they do, they take it out on the student, they take it out on the parent. They need to start thinking about cutting the cost of education.”
Despite the planned cuts, Corbett said state-related universities such as Penn State and Temple should have no problem continuing to provide well-prepared and talented graduates. He said costly, four-year institutions are not appropriate for all students.
Corbett said Pennsylvania may need to expand other trade and training opportunities which he says can also lead to well-paying jobs.