Harrisburg – Senate Republicans today renewed their call to improve health care access and expand Pennsylvania’s health care safety net through the HealthNET PA legislative package.
HealthNET PA expands access to health care and medicine to uninsured and low-income working Pennsylvanians more quickly, and at a fraction of the cost of other state and national proposals.
“We’re in difficult economic times, with predictions that they will get worse. Pennsylvania workers and families need a health care safety net. HealthNET is that safety net,” said Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Ted Erickson (R-26). “The number of Pennsylvanians who do not have health insurance has increased since 2004. This increases the urgency and places an additional burden to provide for the medical needs of people, especially when they find themselves in a position that they didn’t create. Our HealthNET PA plan will provide health care directly to the people who are in the greatest need. It does this in an affordable way by using existing sources of funds.”
Approximately $225 million is annually deposited into the Health Care Provider Retention Account from the current cigarette tax and the CAT Fund surcharge. An estimated $125 million a year is needed to fully fund the current MCARE abatement, which makes the remaining $100 million available for HealthNET PA.
This HealthNET PA $100 million plan expands access to health care and medicine to 507,000 uninsured and low-income working Pennsylvanians. It utilizes information technology to control costs and reduce health care-associated infections, and provides expanded insurance options for employers and families, and will incorporate the concepts of disease prevention and wellness.
Features of the 15-bill HealthNET PA package include the following:
- Improving Access to Health Care and Medicines
- Establishing the Community-Based Healthcare Program for the expansion and site development of health care clinics across Pennsylvania to provide “medical homes” for 175,000 working poor clients and ease pressure on hospital emergency rooms.
- Implementing a physician/health care facility volunteer program through which an additional 159,000 uninsured patients would be assigned to a primary or specialty care physician, with access to free specialty care, labs and inpatient hospital care.
- Creating a registry of free prescription drugs and allowing retail establishment pharmacies to sell prescription drugs at a minimal cost, such as $4.
- Making Health Care More Affordable
- Helping hospitals and doctors’ offices convert to Electronic Medical Records, boosting evidence-based diagnosis and treatment protocols, and encouraging Telemedicine expansion.
- Permitting health insurers to withhold payment to providers in the event of a medical error, and allowing employers to establish “Healthy Living Committees” qualifying for insurance discounts.
- Providing funding of a critical cost-saver – the reduction of health care-associated infections.
- Expanding Coverage
- Providing “Mini-Cobra” coverage for small business employers, creating a high-risk pool for individuals who cannot access other coverage, and extending the option of dependent coverage to age 30. (Nearly half of uninsured Pennsylvanians are age 18-34.)
- Providing $5 million in state tax credits for the use of Health Savings Accounts.
- Permitting a group of ten or more employers who belong to a nonprofit business coalition to pool their health-related insurance liabilities in order to self-insure.
Joining Senator Erickson to announce the HealthNET PA initiatives were: Sen. Pat Vance (R-31), Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48), Sen. John Eichelberger (R-30), Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-36), Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), Sen. Richard Alloway (R-33) and Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-13).
For more information, including statistics, charts and useful links, please visit the HealthNET PA homepage at www.pasenategop.com/healthnet.htm.
* Senators will be touring community health centers and discussing HealthNET PA at news conferences across Pennsylvania later this month.