Senate Passes Judy Ward Bill to Expand Senior Access to Prescription Drugs

(HARRISBURG) – The state Senate today approved Senator Judy Ward’s (R-30) plan to expand senior access to prescription drugs.

“As prescription drug costs continue to rise, many older Pennsylvanians who live on fixed incomes or rely solely on Social Security find themselves unable to afford their medications,” Senator Ward said. “Making these changes will provide more seniors with a sense of security that comes with knowing that they will not have to choose between life-saving medications and paying the bills.”

Senate Bill 668 makes the following changes to the PACENET program:

  • Expands the income eligibility of the program by $6,000 for both individuals and married couples;
  • Removes the requirement that a PACENET cardholder pay a monthly premium; and
  • Provides the department with discretion to have cardholders enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan that meets their prescription needs.

The anticipated savings from enrolling eligible PACENET individuals in Medicare Part D plans will provide enough savings to cover the cost of the income expansion. PACENET was established in 1996 to provide additional prescription drug benefits to Pennsylvanians age 65 and older. Eligibility for the program is based on income.

Senator Ward’s bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

 

CONTACT: Cheryl Schriner

 

 

Senate Advances Argall Bill to Increase Vaccine Transparency

HARRISBURG – The Senate passed a bill by a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 50-0 to increase the transparency of Pennsylvania’s vaccine rollout by requiring the Department of Health to make public the amount of vaccine doses that have been wasted, according to Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill).

“This bill gives the public information they deserve,” said Argall.  “There is absolutely no reason why the state Department of Health should ever withhold this information from the public.”

Senate Bill 559, which is sponsored by Senator Argall, would address the Department of Health’s unwillingness to release details of their pandemic response using a law from 1955. Media organizations across Pennsylvania have expressed their frustration throughout the pandemic with this refusal to publicize information.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for their consideration.

 

Contact: Jim Brugger    717.787.2637

Senator Judy Ward Plan Requiring Deaths from Contagious Diseases to be Reported to Coroners Passes Senate Committee

(HARRISBURG) – A bill that clarifies when deaths from a contagious disease must be reported to county coroners – including COVID-19 deaths – sponsored by Senator Judy Ward (R-30) was approved today by the state Senate Local Government Committee.

“We must have accurate reporting of the deaths and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities,” Senator Ward said. “Coroners are tasked to work closely with the community – specifically health care professionals and law enforcement – to provide answers to grieving families. This bill will allow them to fully perform the duties they were elected to do.”

Recently, Senator Ward and House Majority Leader Rep. Kerry Benninghoff were flanked by coroners from throughout Pennsylvania to underscore discrepancies in numbers of COVID deaths reported by the Department of Health and deaths they as coroners were aware of in their county.

Senate Bill 327 makes it clear that certain circumstances of death shall be reported to the coroner, including any disease constituting a health disaster emergency or pandemic. A similar bill passed both the Senate and the House with large bipartisan majorities only to be met by Governor Wolf’s veto pen.

CONTACT:             Cheryl Schriner (Ward)

Senator Mensch’s Breast Cancer Checkoff Legislation Unanimously Passes House of Representatives, Heads to Governor for Enactment

HARRISBURG – Senate Bill 445, sponsored by Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives today (June 15). This legislation would give individuals renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

Statistics show that one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. While not exclusive to women, breast cancer will count for over 276,000 new cases this year in the United States, and almost 50,000 cases in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, breast cancer will claim the lives of roughly 42,000 women nationwide, and an estimated 2,000 in Pennsylvania alone.

Senate Bill 445, also known as ‘Breast Cancer Checkoff’ legislation, will mirror similar processes set in statute which allow individuals renewing registrations or a driver’s license to include an optional $5 donation to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. There are currently options to donate to the Veterans’ Trust Fund, pediatric cancer research, and the Keystone Tree Restricted Account.

“The PA Breast Cancer Coalition has been instrumental in getting important legislation passed to provide coverage and screenings for women, most recently Act 52 of last year, which I sponsored, for insurers to cover MRIs and ultrasounds for women with dense breasts for the purposes of detecting cancer,” Mensch said. “Most importantly, they have always been committed to contributing to the cause, giving over $4.5 million to breast cancer researchers in the Commonwealth. That’s where SB445 comes in. This will allow Pennsylvanians renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate $5 to the PBCC, assisting in the continuing research to foster innovation and development of an eventual cure. I want to thank all of my colleagues in the Senate and the House for supporting this.”

The Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC) has been leading the fight against breast cancer since 1993. Their mission is simple – to find a cure for breast cancer now so our daughters don’t have to. Over the years, PBCC has spent over 1,500 hours on patient advocacy and contributed over $4.5 million to breast cancer researchers in Pennsylvania. They have also been courageous champions in the push for legislative solutions for expanding insurance coverage for early detection of breast cancer in women.

“The only way to find a cure for breast cancer is by supporting research. Senate Bill 445 will serve as a pathway from Pennsylvania research labs to breast cancer patients all over the world,” said PA Breast Cancer Coalition President Pat Halpin-Murphy. “We are grateful for the constant support of Senator Mensch and all of our state lawmakers who recognize the desperate need for this funding.”

The bill now goes to the Governor for enactment.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

CONTACT: Madison Scarfaro mscarfaro@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Senator Judy Ward Amendment Prohibits the Secretary of Health from Unilaterally Limiting Pennsylvanians

(HARRISBURG) – An amendment by Senator Judy Ward (R-30) would prohibit the state Secretary of Health from unilaterally using laws such as the Disease Prevention and Control Act to limit Pennsylvanians.

“Public health and safety are critically important, and these kinds of decisions should not be made in a vacuum by someone who was not elected by the people,” Senator Ward said. “We must work together to develop policies that protect lives and livelihoods. The Disease Prevention and Control Act has been used as a nearly absolute power to take any action they want – regardless of the opinion of state lawmakers, local and county officials or the public.”

Senator Ward’s amendment prohibits the Secretary of Health from mandating those who have not been exposed or in close contact with the exposed to wear a mask, stay at home or be socially distant. It also prevents the Secretary from using the same laws as a way to force business closures.

“Nothing in this amendment prevents the Secretary from being able to protect the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians,” Senator Ward said. “Rather, the amendment simply prevents one person from unilaterally throwing tens of thousands of citizens out of work, barring children from school, and spending millions of taxpayer dollars.”

The amendment was added to Senate Bill 618 that would prohibit the state, as well as counties, municipalities, school districts and colleges that are subsidized by state taxpayers from requiring proof of vaccination.

The bill could receive final consideration by the full Senate as early as tomorrow.

CONTACT: Cheryl Schriner

Committee Approves Pittman’s Bills Supporting Physician Assistants

Listen

The Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee today (June 8) unanimously approved legislation introduced by Senator Joe Pittman to help physician assistants work and practice with increased efficiency in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 397 amends the Osteopathic Medical Practice Act and Senate Bill 398 amends the Medical Practice Act of 1985 to modernize and advance the practice of physician assistants. The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

“Pennsylvania is one of the premier states for physician assistant education with more than 20 programs currently in the state. While many physician assistants receive their education from programs here, current legislation makes it less appealing for them to stay in Pennsylvania,” Senator Pittman said. “These bills provide reforms that will encourage more physician assistants to practice in the Commonwealth, which will enhance the diverse range of medical professionals across our healthcare delivery system.”

Video of the committee meeting.

Contact:           Jeremy Dias                jdias@pasen.gov

Senators Laughlin, Street Discuss Rx Transparency Bill

State Senators Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) today discussed their bipartisan legislation to require the state Insurance Department to collect and make publicly available data pertaining to the cost of each drug produced by a pharmaceutical company.

 Senate Bill 579 is intended to address the affordability and access to critical medications and the challenge patients, providers, businesses, government health programs and insurers face with the rising costs of prescription drugs, especially the recent development of extremely expensive but valuable drugs.

“These drugs are wonderful advancements in improving health care and they may even reduce aggregate costs; at the same time, there is little information available to the consumer as to why they cost so much and almost no ability to negotiate price,” said Senator Laughlin. “While Pennsylvania continues to face many challenges, I hope we can work together to make drug pricing and affordability a priority.  This is truly a bipartisan issue that will help all Pennsylvanians.” 

Under the measure, pharmaceutical manufacturers would be required to file annual reports with the Department detailing the expenditures for the drugs they produce including:

  • Research and development costs;
  • Clinical trials and regulatory costs;
  • Materials, manufacturing and administrative expenses;
  • Costs paid by another entity including governmental grants;
  • Other costs to acquire the drug, including the purchase of patents, licensing or acquisition costs; and
  • Aggregate amount of manufacturer rebates.

“The information required to be reported under this bill shall be made publicly available on the Insurance Departments website, except for identities of individual payers receiving rebates,” said Senator Street. “In addition, Senate Bill 579 prohibits contracts between pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers or insurers from including provisions prohibiting pharmacists from disclosing information to a customer that would reduce the customer’s out-of-pocket costs.” 

Contacts:        Senator Laughlin         Matt Azeles                             mazeles@pasen.gov

                        Senator Street             Desmond McKinson               Desmond.McKinson@pasenate.com

 

Senator Mensch’s Breast Cancer Checkoff Legislation Unanimously Passes Senate

HARRISBURG – Senate Bill 445, sponsored by Senator Bob Mensch (R-24), unanimously passed the Senate today (May 12). This legislation would give individuals renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

Statistics show that one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. While not exclusive to women, breast cancer will count for over 276,000 new cases this year in the United States, and almost 50,000 cases in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, breast cancer will claim the lives of roughly 42,000 women nationwide, and an estimated 2,000 in Pennsylvania alone.

Senate Bill 445, also known as ‘Breast Cancer Checkoff’ legislation, will mirror similar processes set in statute which allow individuals renewing registrations or a driver’s license to include an optional $5 donation to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. There are currently options to donate to the Veterans’ Trust Fund, pediatric cancer research, and the Keystone Tree Restricted Account.

“The PA Breast Cancer Coalition has been instrumental in getting important legislation passed to provide coverage and screenings for women, most recently Act 52 of last year, which I sponsored, for insurers to cover MRIs and ultrasounds for women with dense breasts for the purposes of detecting cancer,” Mensch said. “Most importantly, they have always been committed to contributing to the cause, giving over $4.5 million to breast cancer researchers in the Commonwealth. That’s where SB445 comes in. This will allow Pennsylvanians renewing either their vehicle registration or driver’s license an option to donate $5 to the PBCC, assisting in the continuing research to foster innovation and development of an eventual cure.”

The Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC) has been leading the fight against breast cancer since 1993. Their mission is simple – to find a cure for breast cancer now so our daughters don’t have to. Over the years, PBCC has spent over 1,500 hours on patient advocacy and contributed over $4.5 million to breast cancer researchers in Pennsylvania. They have also been courageous champions in the push for legislative solutions for expanding insurance coverage for early detection of breast cancer in women.

“The only way to find a cure for breast cancer is by supporting research. Senate Bill 445 will serve as a pathway from Pennsylvania research labs to breast cancer patients all over the world,” said PA Breast Cancer Coalition President Pat Halpin-Murphy. “We are grateful for the constant support of Senator Mensch and all of our state lawmakers who recognize the desperate need for this funding.”

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote.

Watch Senator Mensch’s floor remarks here.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

CONTACT: Madison Scarfaro mscarfaro@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Legislation Establishing Moratorium on Proposed Closure of Polk and White Haven State Centers Passes House Health Committee

Harrisburg, December 17, 2019 – State Senators John Yudichak (I-14), Michele Brooks (R-50), Scott Hutchinson (R-21) and Lisa Baker (R-20) announced today that the House Health Committee passed Senate Bill 906 by a vote of 13-12. The bill establishes a moratorium on the proposed closure of Polk and White Haven State Centers.

“Today we are one step closer to giving the people who live at Polk and White Haven State Centers what they deserve – a choice to remain in the place they call home. We appreciate House Health Committee Chair Rapp for bringing this bill that protects our most vulnerable citizens up for consideration. We continue to be their voice in Harrisburg and will not be silenced until we save these centers.”

SB 906 would do the following:

  • Prohibit the Department of Human Services from closing a state facility until all Medicaid waiver-eligible individuals in the Commonwealth are authorized to begin receiving home and community-based services.
  • Require DHS to provide notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin when all individuals have received authorization to begin home and community-based services.
  • Establish the Task Force on the Closure of State Centers upon publication of notice.
  • Require the Secretary of DHS to convene an initial meeting of the task force within 60 days.

The bill will be considered by the full House next.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Carly Simpson – 717-787-7105

Brad Hurley – 570-325-3274

 

 

Bartolotta, Laughlin Introduce Bill to Preserve Access to Ventilator Services

HARRISBURG – Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Dan Laughlin (R-49) have introduced a bill that would preserve access to ventilator or tracheostomy care for hundreds of patients in Pennsylvania.

Roughly 700 patients in Pennsylvania receive Medicaid-covered ventilator or tracheostomy care in a nursing home in any given month. However, Medicaid does not reimburse providers for all of the additional expenses these patients incur, including specialized equipment, supplies and staff costs.

Many providers face the prospect of limiting – or even eliminating – services for these patients. As a result, patients would be forced to travel long distances to one of the dwindling number of nursing homes that offer these services, or receive care in a hospital, where the daily cost of care is roughly four times higher than in a nursing home.

Senate Bill 959 would dedicate additional Medicaid funding to facilities that serve a substantial number of patients who require ventilator or tracheostomy care.

The bill would provide an additional reimbursement for facilities that treat a large percentage of patients who require this highly specialized care. Currently, just 13 facilities in Pennsylvania treat more than 300 of the state’s 700 patients who require these services.

“The largest provider of ventilator and tracheostomy care in the state recently filed for bankruptcy protection. That underscores just how serious this crisis has become,” Bartolotta said. “Providing this kind of care is hard work, and it is expensive. Ensuring providers are reimbursed for these costs will not only preserve access to care, but will also provide an incentive for more providers to offer these services in their own communities.”

“Over the past ten years, Medicaid payments for ventilator and tracheostomy services have declined, and it’s time we start to take care of, what I consider, some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Laughlin, co-prime sponsor of the bill. “I believe we are at a critical juncture and if we don’t properly fund this type of care soon we will have a crisis on our hands.”

 

CONTACT:  Katrina Hanna (717) 787-1463 (Senator Bartolotta)
                        Matt Azeles (717) 787-8927 (Senator Laughlin)