|The latest news from the State Capitol
Medicaid, a Multi-Week Review (Week 3)
The last couple weeks we have been delving into Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, which is the welfare healthcare program intended to provide a safety net for low-income individuals. In this report, I would like to provide some information on Medicaid and long-term care.
Almost all of Medicaid’s payments for long-term care goes to cover nursing home expenses for seniors. Statistically, just over one-half of Pennsylvanians will require some nursing home care at some point in their lives. The average nursing home resident is over age 85 and single, typically widowed. Looking at population data, Pennsylvania’s population of residents over the age of 85 is projected to grow by 120% between now and the year 2050. By contrast, the percentage of Pennsylvanians under the age of 65 is projected to rise by only 10% over the same period. Long-term care expense is the fastest growing portion of Medicaid spending, and it is projected to soon exceed all other Medicaid costs.
Nursing homes, which offer 24-hour skilled nursing care, are distinct from assisted living facilities and personal care homes, which serve individuals who can perform some life skills without as much assistance. Medicaid will cover nursing home care only if the individual meets the income requirements. Some Pennsylvanians engage the assistance of lawyers to do Medicaid planning, also known as elder law, where they shelter their assets in trusts to provide for them during their lifetimes while also qualifying them for Medicaid.
Nursing home care is expensive, ranging from $69,500 to $128,000 per year in Pennsylvania. Medicaid reimburses nursing homes at a lower rate, typically below the actual cost per resident for the nursing home. That means that nursing homes often must balance their resident population of Medicaid vs. private pay residents in order to remain economically viable. For this reason, not all nursing homes are always able to accept new Medicaid residents.
As Pennsylvania policy makers anticipate growth in the ranks of nursing home residents over the next 30 years, we will need to explore how to cover these increasing costs.
Free Admission at Several State Museums for Charter Day
Celebrate Charter Day on Sunday, March 8, with free admission to the State Museum in Harrisburg and many historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History.
In honor of the Commonwealth’s 339th birthday, visitors to The State Museum of Pennsylvania will have a rare opportunity to see the original Charter of Pennsylvania written in 1681.
In addition, in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 15th Amendment, the Pennsylvania State Archives will exhibit two rarely seen documents: Pennsylvania’s Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (1780) and the state’s ratification of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1869), which ensured the right of American men to vote, regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The documents will be on display until 1 p.m. Friday, March 13.
For more information about Charter Day activities, including a full list of participating museums and historic sites, click here.
Lawmakers Continue Study of Governor’s $36 Billion Budget Proposal
The House Appropriations Committee continued its work to dissect the governor’s $36 billion budget proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year this week with an eye toward assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of existing programs, eliminating waste and recognizing taxpayers will foot the bill for the state’s spending.
Several departments with major impacts on the budget and the lives of all Pennsylvanians appeared before the committee this week, including the departments of Environmental Protection, Conservation and Natural Resources, Transportation, Agriculture, Health, and Community and Economic Development.
The final week of hearings is focused primarily on education and human services, the two biggest state agencies in terms of funding. The hearings begin at 10 a.m. Monday with the Department of Education, followed by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. Tuesday brings the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and state-related universities. The Department of Human Services hearing will be held all day on Wednesday, and hearings close on Thursday with the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association and the state budget secretary. To watch live streams or archived video of the hearings, click here.
Additional information about the 2020-21 state budget proposal may be found here.
Health Committee Examines Prescription Drug Pricing
Recognizing the importance of making health care costs in Pennsylvania more transparent, more competitive and more affordable, the House Health Committee held a public hearing Tuesday to examine the impact of prescription drug pricing on patients.
The hearing featured testimony from Sarah Edmond, executive vice president of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review; Jane Horvath, senior fellow at the National Academy for State Health Policy; Lauren Neves, director of policy for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA); and Antonio Ciaccia, CEO of 46 Brooklyn Research, which studies prescription drug pricing.
Applications Due for Summertime Work on Turnpike
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is now accepting applications for its summer employment program. Available positions include toll collector, maintenance, clerical, engineering and information technology.
All eligible applicants must be at least 18 years of age and completed a secondary education program such as high school or GED at the time of hiring. Applicants will also be subject to a Pennsylvania criminal background check screening.
Toll collectors must be available to work any of the three shifts over a 24-hour period, including weekends and holidays on the basis of a 40-hour week. The pay is $12 per hour for toll collectors, maintenance and clerk positions. It is $14.50 per hour for engineering and information technology positions.
The summer employment program runs between May 1 and Sept. 30. Those who participated in the program previously must re-submit an application for consideration.
All applications MUST be submitted online here, and applications should select “SUMMER WORK” in the first step of the registration process.
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