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09-20-2011

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Government Relations Update – September 20, 2011

Pennsylvania Issues

Miscellaneous

  • Pennsylvania General Assembly:  The Pennsylvania House and Senate have been in recess since finishing the budget in early July.  The Senate will return to Harrisburg on September 19, 2011, and the House will reconvene on September 26, 2011.  There is a full agenda planned for the fall session, which includes debate regarding education reform, privatizing state liquor stores, transportation funding, natural gas fees and legislative redistricting.  HAP will continue advocacy efforts to address medical liability reform and legislation pertaining to health information technology.
  • HAP New Senior Vice Presidents:  On August 17, 2011, HAP announced that James Redmond, Senior Vice President of Legislative Services, will retire as of December 31, 2011.  Redmond will be succeeded at HAP by Scott Bishop, who has been named Senior Vice President of State Legislative Services, and Michael Strazzella, who has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Federal Relations and Political Development.  Redmond has worked for HAP in various capacities since 1975.

    Prior to joining HAP, Mr. Bishop served as a lobbyist with S.R. Wojdak and Associates.  Mr. Bishop also previously served as a staff member with the House Appropriations Committee and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  He holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Dickinson College .  Before joining HAP in 2004, Mr. Strazzella was the Deputy Director of Congressional Relations for the American Psychiatric Association.  He also worked on campaigns for former Senators Specter and Santorum.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Gettysburg College . 

New Jersey Issues

Advocacy

  • State and Municipal Election Update:  All 80 members of the New Jersey State Assembly and the 40 members of the New Jersey State Senate will seek re-election on November 8, 2011.  Senator Doherty (R-Washington), Assemblyman Peterson (R-Flemington) and Assemblyman DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) face opposition, but each is favored to win reelection.  These members represent Warren Hospital.

    The Town of Phillipsburg will also hold elections for Mayor and two of five seats on town council.  Mayoral candidates include: Mayor Harry Wyant, Jr., a Republican running for his fourth term as Mayor; Richard Halley, a Phillipsburg police sergeant running as a Democratic; and Councilman  Todd Tersigni, who will be running as an independent candidate.  Town council candidates include: Brian L. Otto, who will run as an independent candidate; Democratic Councilman  James P. Stettner, who is running for reelection; and Republican John Lynn, Jr.  Councilman David DeGerolamo is not seeking reelection.
  • LegislatureThe New Jersey State Senate will reconvene on September 19, 2011.  The General Assembly has not met since late June.  No voting sessions or committee meetings have been announced yet for September or October.

Federal Issues

Advocacy

  • Budget Control Act of 2011:  On August 2, 2011, Congress passed the much anticipated debt ceiling relief bill, which will raise the nation’s debt ceiling in several steps until 2013 and reduce the federal budget by about $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years.  The first stage of the bill requires $917 billion in federal spending reductions over the next ten years in exchange for a $900 billion increase in the national debt ceiling.  The second stage of the bill requires a special joint committee of Congress to recommend by late November an additional $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in additional spending cuts to be implemented over ten years.  If the committee’s recommendations are enacted by late December, then the debt ceiling can be raised by an amount equal to the spending cuts.  If the committee’s recommendations are not enacted, then the debt ceiling will increase by $1.2 trillion, and $1.2 trillion in mandatory spending reductions - evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending - will be implemented, too.  Cuts to Social Security, Me dicaid, veterans' benefits and pensions, food stamps and Supplemental Security Income are exempt from the mandatory cuts.  However, cuts to the Me dicare system are not exempt, and Me dicare payments to providers may be cut by up to 2%. 

    The timing of the mandatory budget cuts are even more concerning given the scheduled 29.5% Me dicare physician fee schedule reduction set to become effective on January 1, 2012.  Although the physician fee schedule problem has been temporarily corrected each of the last few years, Congress may be unable to do so this year given its budget constraints.  When coupled with the possible reductions to provider payments under the Budget Control Act of 2011, physicians may experience a 30% to 40% Me dicare reimbursement cut, which could lead to a massive exodus of participating physicians from the Me dicare system.

    Congressmen Dent (R-15-PA), Fitzpatrick (R-8-PA) and Holden (D-17-PA) voted in favor of the bill, and Congressman Garrett (R-5-NJ) voted against the measure.  Senator Casey (D-PA) supported the bill and Senators Toomey (R-PA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Me nendez (D-NJ) voted against the bill.  Following the vote, Senator Toomey stated that the bill does not contain meaningful spending cuts and fails to establish a sustainable fiscal path.   Senator Toomey is one of three Republican Senators appointed to the special joint committee of Congress, which is co-chaired by Senator Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Hensarling (R-5-TX).  HAP has pledged to work closely with Senator Toomey in order to prevent further hospital payment reductions.  We will continue to monitor these issues, including the efforts of the committee to recommend additional spending cuts by late November.