Pennsylvania Gov. Ridge's New Budget Makes Historic Investment In Pennsylvanians' Health
HARRISBURG, Pa., Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's 2000-01 budget proposes an historic investment in Pennsylvanians' health, including his plan to use Pennsylvania's multi-billion dollar share of the national tobacco settlement for a br
Called Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan, Gov. Ridge's tobacco- settlement proposal includes a sweeping initiative to provide health insurance to tens of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians, and a plan to enable thousands of older Pennsylvanians to continue to live at home, instead of in a nursing home.
The national tobacco-settlement agreement between the leading tobacco companies and a large number of states resulted in an allocation of $206 billion to be paid out to participating states over 25 years. Payments are expected to continue in perpetuity.
Pennsylvania's share of the settlement is expected to amount to more than $11 billion over 25 years. Gov. Ridge's 2000-01 budget includes $310 million in tobacco-settlement funds.
``Two weeks ago, I proposed these ideas in what I called Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan,'' Gov. Ridge said today in his budget address to the General Assembly. ``I look forward to hearing your ideas. But on one demand I will insist: The money must go to improve Pennsylvania's health. Every penny, every year.''
Gov. Ridge's tobacco-settlement spending plan breaks down this way:
A new initiative to provide insurance for the uninsured, including disabled workers, 40 percent;
An initiative to allow older Pennsylvanians to be cared for in their homes and communities, rather than in nursing homes, 15 percent;
Tobacco-use prevention and cessation, 15 percent;
Broad-based health research and health-care-related venture capital, 15 percent;
Uncompensated-care payments to hospitals, 10 percent; and an endowment for the future, 5 percent.
Gov. Ridge earmarked the largest share of the tobacco-settlement funds -- 40 percent -- to provide low-cost health insurance to up to 100,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians. The state will purchase insurance coverage for adults who have incomes lower than 200 percent of the federal poverty level; who do not have health-insurance coverage; and who are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.
This initiative also would help approximately 10,000 low-income Pennsylvanians with disabilities whose only barriers to jobs and self- sufficiency are either lack of health insurance or health insurance that doesn't meet their complex health needs.
In many cases, income they earn from work would disqualify them from Medicaid, and many employer-sponsored health plans do not meet their complex health-care needs. As a result, persons with disabilities often are forced to choose between keeping their health-care coverage and keeping their jobs.
Under Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan, the state will extend Medicaid coverage to low-income Pennsylvanians with disabilities -- so they can keep their jobs and get the health care they need.
Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan earmarks a total of 15 percent of the funds for tobacco-use prevention and cessation. The Commonwealth would target two-thirds (or 10 percent) of these funds to create and expand statewide and community-based prevention strategies identified as best practices by the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One-third (or 5 percent) of the funds would go toward comprehensive tobacco-cessation programs in local communities with successful track records.
Gov. Ridge's proposal would use 15 percent of the tobacco funds to make a dramatic investment in home- and community-based care for older Pennsylvanians -- enabling thousands to get the services they need so they can continue to live in their own homes instead of going into nursing homes.
Pennsylvania would use the settlement funds to accelerate an expansion of the Medicaid home- and community-based waiver for nursing-home care for Medicaid-eligible people over 60.
The Governor's proposed expansion will begin this service for at least 1,500 more seniors in 2000-01. Over the next five years, the Ridge Administration expects this initiative to provide care in the home for an additional 10,000 older Pennsylvanians.
The Governor's plan would invest a total of 15 percent of the settlement dollars in health-care research and health-based venture capital.
The Commonwealth would put two-thirds of these funds (10 percent of the total) into broad-based health research, targeting funding to Pennsylvania health priorities and Pennsylvania researchers and organizations.
The remaining third (5 percent of the total) would create a new venture- capital account, capitalized over three years, that would provide much-needed, early stage funding to spur health-care-related business development in Pennsylvania.
Another 10 percent of the tobacco funds would be used to pay hospitals for health-care services for which they have not been compensated. This money is intended to relieve some of the financial burden incurred by hospitals that, as part of their charitable mission, care for a disproportionate number of Pennsylvanians who cannot pay for their health care.
The actual amount of money hospitals receive would be based, in part, on the actual cases hospitals serve during the year.
Finally, Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan would set aside 5 percent of the funding for an endowment -- a special investment account to augment future tobacco-settlement payments if they decline, and to continue critical health programs if the settlement money stops altogether.
In addition to Pennsylvania's Health Investment Plan, Gov. Ridge's new budget proposal also includes $67 million in state funds for Pennsylvania's nationally recognized Children's Health Insurance Program, again enabling Pennsylvania to access full federal funding in the coming year.
``My budget proposes $67 million in state funds to continue the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP,'' Gov. Ridge said today in his budget address to the General Assembly. ``Together, we've more than doubled funding for CHIP, and doubled enrollment, too. This month, we reached a milestone of 90,000 enrollees -- putting Pennsylvania in the top five when it comes to enrolling children. We have eliminated waiting lists, enhanced benefits, expanded eligibility and simplified enrollment.''
In 1998, the Ridge Administration launched a statewide marketing campaign to increase enrollment in CHIP. Because there still are eligible children in Pennsylvania who are not enrolled, and since all available federal funds have not been spent, marketing and outreach efforts will continue in the new budget.
Under Gov. Ridge, Pennsylvania has seen 48,150 additional children enroll, up from 42,500 in 1995 -- a 113 percent growth.
Last year, CHIP enrollments put Pennsylvania in the top five in the nation for enrollments in state children's health-insurance programs.
CHIP provides free or low-cost health insurance to families that earn too much money to qualify for medical assistance, but not enough to afford individual coverage for their children.
The program provides free coverage to children of families with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal income poverty guidelines, or $33,400 for a family of four. Low-cost coverage is available to children of families that earn up to 235 percent of the federal guidelines, or $39,245 for a family of four.
``We propose other new and important health-care investments,'' Gov. Ridge told lawmakers today. ``Expanded newborn screening. A managed-care consumer guide. New information to help loved ones make decisions on long-term care.''
Gov. Ridge's new 2000-01 budget proposal includes $4 million to expand and support health screening for newborns.
The proposal will add two new screens -- for congenital adrenal hyperplasia and galactosemia -- in addition to funding the existing four screens for phenylketonuria (PKU), primary congenital hypothyroidism, sickle- cell hemoglobinopathies and maple syrup urine disease. About 145,000 babies born in Pennsylvania hospitals every year now are screened for these four diseases, and the Department of Health anticipates that, due to the screening, about 170 newborns will be diagnosed each year with these or related diseases -- saving those infants' lives, or improving their prospects for effective treatment.
The program also provides follow-up and referral counseling for the treatment of newborns who test positive.
Gov. Ridge's budget proposal also includes $1.9 million for a major initiative to make the maze of long-term-care information less confusing and more user-friendly for families.
``Most Pennsylvania families at some time will face decisions about long- term care for their loved ones -- whether that care takes place in a nursing home or in their own home,'' Gov. Ridge said. ``Sometimes, families must make these critical decisions quickly, on the heels of a crisis. But the information they need is often complex and hard to find.
``This year, we'll try to make these difficult decisions a little easier by making long-term-care information more readily available and easier to understand.''
Under the Governor's proposal, the departments of Health and Aging will compile and publicize information on long-term-care services and providers. Plans include enhanced state websites; an information clearinghouse; a training program for doctors, nurses and others involved in the decision- making process; and a consumer-awareness campaign.
Gov. Ridge's new budget also earmarks nearly $600,000 to launch a Department of Health initiative to advise Pennsylvania's more than 800 licensed nursing homes on how to improve health care and services for residents. This effort would augment the Department of Health's regular health and safety inspections of nursing homes.
The first phase of the project would include a statewide, independent analysis of compliance data for nursing homes to determine the types of problems that exist. Then, the program would make recommendations for system- wide improvements based on industry trends and national best practices.
During the second phase of the project, the Department of Health would work with nursing homes to put improvements in place, ensuring better care for Pennsylvania's approximately 88,000 nursing-home residents.
The Department of Health routinely inspects nursing homes to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and investigates complaints. In 1999, the department responded to and monitored the correction of more than 2,200 complaints from families, residents and concerned citizens.
Gov. Ridge's budget proposal also features an $800,000 initiative to survey the satisfaction of Pennsylvanians who use managed-care insurance and to provide a comprehensive consumer-resource guide for the more than 5.2 million Pennsylvania managed-care subscribers. The consumer-resource guide would answer frequently asked questions and explain how patients can lodge a complaint or grievance.
``Almost half of all Pennsylvanians rely on managed-care insurance, and knowing the right questions to ask will help them make better decisions about choosing and using their plan,'' Gov. Ridge said.
The Governor's budget also proposes $9.8 million to several state agencies to prevent and mitigate the potential public-health effects of West Nile on citizens of the Commonwealth.
The $9.8 million in new funding will provide necessary staffing and an improved epidemiological infrastructure to detect the virus should it find its way into Pennsylvania. Such efforts include mosquito abatement, animal surveillance, laboratory analysis and public education. State agencies involved in the planning are the departments of Health,