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Governor Rendell Calls on Senate to Return to Harrisburg, Work with House to Address Critical, Unresolved Health Care Issues
Date:11/10/2008

Action needed on coverage for growing number of uninsured, continuation of malpractice abatement for doctors and Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today called on Senate leadership to bring their members back to Harrisburg for the remainder of the legislative session to work exclusively on unfinished health care issues affecting hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians, physicians and hospitals.

The Governor was joined at today's news conference by House Majority Leader William DeWeese, who said his chamber stands ready to work with the Senate to schedule the days necessary to tackle health care issues. Health care, according to Tuesday's exit polls, ranks along with economic issues as those most important to Pennsylvanians.

Governor Rendell asked the Senate to return in regular session because all of the necessary health care legislation is ready to be considered. Also, he said, there is not enough time remaining in this legislative session to meet the requirements of calling for a special session to accomplish health care reforms. House leaders have expressed their willingness to focus exclusively on health care should the Senate return.

"A study released just one month ago by the Economic Policy Institute shows that since last year's report, another 50,000 Pennsylvania residents lost their employer-sponsored health care benefits," Governor Rendell said. "Since 2000, 561,000 Pennsylvanians have lost insurance from their employers -- a number that is second only to Michigan. This tells me that we can't wait until the New Year to bring the uninsured an option for coverage that they are begging us to provide. To wait, when we have the resources to help them now, is heartless and cruel.

"In March, the House of Representatives passed a good, responsible program -- called PA Access to Basic Care -- to cover 272,000 uninsured. ABC would have drawn down federal matching funds of 54 cents of every dollar of state funds presently allocated for adultBasic.

"Over the summer and throughout the fall, the administration met with Senate Republican leadership and offered several compromise proposals that would have covered fewer people, but would still have offered much needed coverage to tens of thousands of hard working Pennsylvania men and women. The Senate left without negotiating or voting on any of those compromises, despite more than 120,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians on the adultBasic waiting list.

"If Senate members return to join their colleagues in the House, they will have ample time to negotiate these proposals and pass a plan that could be up and running by late spring," the Governor said.

"I first announced a program to cover the uninsured nearly two years ago, so the General Assembly understands the proposals and the seriousness of the problem facing uninsured Pennsylvanians. What better legacy could this General Assembly leave than giving people who are desperate for health care an option that could bring them much needed peace of mind and, in some instances, save their lives?"

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent letters to Senate Republican leadership providing a status report of negotiations the administration has been involved in for more than a year to gain federal funding for a large portion of the ABC program. CMS said the ABC plan was reasonable and consistent with its requirements in the areas of benefits and eligibility. It said that it expects legislation to be in place before implementation of the program.

In addition to ABC, two other issues remained unresolved when the Senate adjourned before the election. The first is continuation of the Mcare abatement, which has helped doctors pay their medical malpractice premiums. Over the past five years, this program, which was created by Governor Rendell, has paid doctors nearly $1 billion. The Governor said he would like to continue this program -- under the ABC proposal, for 10 years -- but he will only approve continuation of abatements with the passage of a program that expands health insurance to the uninsured.

The Governor also expressed willingness to continue funding for the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) as part of an overall health care package. PHC4 collects quality and cost data from hospitals and is scheduled to end on Nov. 30.

"It seems clear to me that last Tuesday's election was a mandate that the people expect their elected officials to work together and solve problems. Two Pennsylvanians die each day from the lack of health insurance. That is unacceptable. Coverage for the uninsured is one problem that we must address while we wait for the federal government to tackle this issue for the entire country.

"We can do this. We must do this. And we must do this now. I ask the Senate to put aside partisan differences, return to Harrisburg and join their colleagues in the House to help the growing number of uninsured."

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit http://www.governor.state.pa.us.

CONTACT:

Chuck Ardo

717-783-1116


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SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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