Feb. 14, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
 
Medicaid, a Multi-Week Review (Part 1)

Over the next few weeks, I will be providing information regarding Medicaid. Medicaid is part of our state welfare program, designed as a safety-net to cover medical costs for low-income individuals. Medicaid is funded jointly with federal and state dollars. Over the last five years, the federal government has averaged 52% of the funding for the program, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has funded the remaining 48%.

Medicaid is different than Medicare. Medicare is the federal program that provides basic medical insurance coverage for people age 65 and older, as well as for a limited number of younger recipients who receive benefits due to a disability or other specific condition. All older Americans qualify for Medicare, whereas only low-income individuals qualify for Medicaid. Pennsylvanians who qualify for Medicare may also qualify for Medicaid if they meet the income eligibility requirements. In these cases, Medicaid will cover medical expenses not covered by Medicare.

Twenty percent of the population of Pennsylvania currently receives Medicaid benefits. Breaking the numbers down, Medicaid covers one in six adults ages 19-64, one in three children ages 0-18, two in three nursing home residents, two in five individuals with disabilities, and one in six Medicare beneficiaries. In 2019, Medicaid spending in Pennsylvania topped $30 billion.
 
 
Hearings to Review 2020-21 PA Budget Proposal Start Tuesday

Presented with a costly $36 billion budget proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf – one that would increase state spending more than $2 billion over the current year’s enacted budget – members of the House Appropriations Committee will get to work next week investigating the governor’s funding requests and the actual needs of state agencies.

The annual budget hearings kick off at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, with the Department of Revenue, which includes the state lottery, and continue that afternoon with the non-partisan Independent Fiscal Office and the Department of Aging.

On Wednesday, the committee will hear from leaders of the departments of State, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Labor and Industry. Thursday’s hearings will focus on criminal justice with the Pennsylvania State Police, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Corrections and the boards of Pardons, and Probation and Parole.

For more information about the 2020-21 state budget proposal, click here. For a hearing schedule, or to watch live streams or archived video of the budget hearings, click here.
 
 
Election Reforms in Effect for April 28 Primary Election

Comprehensive reforms designed to encourage greater participation in our elections will be in place for the upcoming April 28 Primary Election.

Anyone not already registered to vote now has more time to do so. You may register online or in person at your county courthouse up to 15 days prior to an election, which is April 13.

For the first time, voters may choose to cast their ballots by mail for no reason other than convenience. The ballots will work similarly to absentee ballots, but voters need not be out of town or otherwise unavailable to vote in person to qualify for a mail-in ballot.

You may apply for the mail-in or absentee ballots here.

The last day to apply for a mail-in or civilian absentee ballot is 5 p.m. the Tuesday before the election, which is April 21. The completed ballot must be received via mail, or dropped off in person at your county elections office, by 8 p.m. on Election Day, April 28.

The last day for county election boards to receive voted military and overseas absentee ballots (submitted for delivery no later than 11:59 p.m. April 27) is a week after the election, May 5.

Also under the new law, voters who have a permanent disability may ask to be placed on a permanent absentee voter list. Voters on this list will have an absentee ballot application mailed to them by the first Monday in February each year. If you complete and return the application, the county will send you ballots in the mail for all the elections that take place that year, as well as for any special election held through the third Monday in February of the next year.

For more information about the upcoming election, click here.
 
 
PHEAA Offers New Student Loan Refinance Option

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) recently announced an expansion of its PA Forward Student Loan Program, offering borrowers a more streamlined way to manage their debt by combining all of their federal and private student loans into a single monthly payment.

The PA Forward Student Loan Refinance Program offers competitive fixed interest rates, currently as low as 3.72% APR, which is significantly lower than the average private student loan rate of 8.86% and the average Federal PLUS loan rate of 6.97%.

Eligible federal loans include Stafford, PLUS, Graduate PLUS, Consolidation and Perkins loans. Borrowers should be aware that refinancing federal student loans will result in the loss of current or future federal loan-specific benefits. Eligible private loans include any student loan used for qualified postsecondary education expenses.

For more information, visit www.PHEAA.org/refi. For specific questions, call 844-PAFORWD (844-723-6793).
 
 
PennDOT Offices Closed for Presidents Day

In observance of Presidents Day, all PennDOT driver license and photo centers, including the full-service center in Harrisburg, will be closed Saturday, Feb. 15, through Monday, Feb. 17. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov.
 
  

I spoke on 100.9 The Line (radio 100.9FM and 1380AM) this week about the state budget, Interstate 81, and what is being done to attract new residents and businesses to Pennsylvania.
   
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