Health policy bills still alive in PA Assembly

    Capitol observes expect agreement on several health policy bills before the end of state budget negotiations.

    Democrats and Republicans in Harrisburg says there’s time to improve healthcare access before lawmakers take a summer break. House Democrats introduced a bill to expand the state-supported health insurance plan called AdultBasic this week. But Republicans say the program is likely to be a sticking point in this year’s state budget negotiations.
    (Photo: Flickr/tanguero (BLOCK, rinse, repeat))

    Listen: [audio:090521tepolicy.mp3]

    Brett Marcy is spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd Eachus. He says the dragging economy and job losses have created an even greater need for the AdultBasic program. But Marcy says the budget proposal from the Republican-controlled senate doesn’t recognize the need to expand that low-cost insurance option.

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    Marcy: What the senate Republicans have done essentially is to ignore the financial situation, and the financial straits of working families today, and has instead said, you know we’ll stick with what we did last year, well, what we did last year frankly isn’t going to be good enough.

    Senate Republicans say any spending increase is a hard sell when the Commonwealth is facing a $3 billion budget gap.

    Marcy says the AdultBasic legislation will be House Bill 1. In past sessions, lawmakers have reserved that first designation for their top legislative priority.

    Senate appropriations chair Republican Jake Corman says his caucus is focused on controlling spending.

    When you are looking at a $3 billion deficit, just on regular services, it’s hard to come up with new services or add to current services, so any amount of revenue to be found for expanding AdultBasic will be hard.

    While AdultBasic is still a sticking point, lawmakers are more optimistic about agreement on several other health policy bills. One proposal would deny hospital payments when a serious, and preventable, medical error occurs. Another bill helps small business employees hold on to their workplace health insurance when they are laid off.

    The House Appropriations Committee is scrutinizing the state budget approved by the Republican-controlled Senate. The head of Governor Rendell’s Office of Health Care Reform says the senate’s bare-bones budget proposal will cost Pennsylvania millions in the long run.

    Director Ann Torregrossa says the senate budget would eliminate funding for a program that has successfully reduced hospital acquired infections. She says more than 3,000 Pennsylvanians die of hospital-acquired infections each year, and the program is transforming health care and saving millions of dollars. Torregrossa says it’s hard to believe that the Senate is seriously willing to let it go unfunded.

    Torregrossa: It could be a trading game at this point, we don’t know, the thought that you would attempt to trade, or put at risk something that’s that important, that innovative and that essential is shocking. The state Senate returns to session on June 1st.

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