IS THE BUDGET RESOLVED, OR NOT?
On October 4, Governor Tom Wolf convened a press conference where he chided the House Republican Caucus for not concurring with revenue plans advanced by Senate Republicans and supported by House and Senate Democratic Caucuses. He said, “I’ve had enough of the games. House Republicans again failed to deliver on a budget agreement. Over the past several months, I have been flexible and patient as they have repeatedly failed to agree amongst themselves on how to approach the budget.” As such, he said, he was taking matters into his own hands by stating that he intended to tap into $1.25 billion of future profits from the PA Liquor Control Board in order to “manage the finances of the Commonwealth until the House sees fit to do what it is supposed to do.” He projected that this action would cost PA $86 million a year in interest, assuming a 4% rate of interest.
DEBT LIMITS BILL PASSES HOUSE
House Bill 785 (Saylor-R-York) passed the House by a 117-81 vote on October 4 and goes back to the Senate for concurrence. The bill seeks to address future borrowing by the state. It decreases the debt ceiling of the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RCAP) by $250 million; limits borrowing for new projects funded by debt (up to $350 million in public improvement projects) and requires the administration to use “responsible debt management practices”. During the floor debate, Republicans claimed the Governor supported these reforms. The final vote was largely along party lines although one Berks County Republicans broke party ranks to vote no.
INSURANCE DEPARTMENT RE-AFFIRMS HEALTH COVERAGE MANDATE
On October 2, Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman reaffirmed the Insurance Department’s position that health insurance mandates include 3-D mammograms provided at no cost to the patient. Speaking before the PA Breast Cancer Coalition, Altman cited the Affordable Care Act’s required zero dollar preventive care services. Originally announced October 5, 2015, former Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller joined First Lady Frances Wolf to pronounce this policy. Commissioner Miller also said that other PA state laws dictated this coverage in addition to the Affordable Care Act, “With the adoption of this policy, my department will consider all mammograms to be covered under Pennsylvania’s law, which means they must be provided at no cost to the consumer.”
REP. MURPHY TO RESIGN
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-18) is resigning effective October 21st. Already, two Republican State Senators Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny/Washington) announced that they will try for the GOP nomination to succeed Murphy. Rep. Murphy is in his 8th term in Congress and served on the House Energy & Commerce Committee where he was a leader in an unsuccessful drive against passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. His resignation makes him the third PA Republican Member of Congress not to be part of the 2018 election cycle after Representatives Dent and Barletta.
FEDERAL AFFORDABLE CARE ACT NOTICES
On October 6, the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration gave advance notice of two items which will be published in the Federal Register October 13. The first governs religious exemptions from ACA while the second does the same for those objecting to ACA provisions on moral grounds. Link to Federal Register follows: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/10/13/2017-21851/religious-exemptions-and-accommodations-for-coverage-of-certain-preventive-services-under-the
- CMS is presenting an informational webinar for insurance brokers on Obamacare Open Enrollment on October 11 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Details: REGTAP.infor to register for ‘Health Insurance Marketplace’ webinar series.
- IRS listed guidance for various Affordable Care Act Applicable Large Employers compliance areas with details at https://www.irs.gov/affordable-care-act/employers/aca-information-center-for-applicable-large-employers-ales:
- Form 1095-C
- In Pennsylvania, the Patient Safety Authority meets in Summerdale, PA on October 17. Details: 717-346-0469
THREE BILLS TO WOLF FOR SIGNATURE
Legislation has gone to Governor Tom Wolf for his approval before finally becoming law, one of which he is expected to veto. First is House Bill 45 (Godshall-R-Montgomery) which passed the House 198-0 on October 4. This legislation allows Pennsylvanians with terminal cancer to access experimental cancer-fighting drugs that do not yet have FDA approval. Governor Wolf said he supports this bill.
Bill number two is House Bill 409 (Evankovich-R-Westmoreland/Allegheny). It revamps the review process for changes made to international building code standards which are updated every three years. PA has its own Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and a mechanism called Review Advisory Commission is supposed to periodically look at the international changes to see if they should be part of our UCC. Some HB 409 provisions include:
- Adding a construction trades person and a consumer to the Review Advisory Commission
- Three hearings must be held
- A 2/3 vote is required to remove opposed sections of the international standard while a simple majority can ratify unopposed sections of the international code.
NOTE: Technically, the bill still has to be signed by the Senate before it formally goes to the Governor.
The one facing a veto is a Human Services Code bill which governs Department of Human Services’ programs including Medicaid. House Bill 59 (Moul-R-Adams) contains a provision requiring non-disabled Medicaid recipients to seek employment. The vote was partisan with Democrats voting no. There were three Republicans voting no (Reps. DiGirolamo –Bucks; Murt – Montgomery; and White – Phila.) and three Democrats voting yes (Reps. Barbin –Cambria; Burns –Cambria; and Petrarca – Armstrong/Indiana/Westmoreland)