Government Relations Update – January 10, 2012
- State Budget: On January 4, 2012, Governor Corbett ordered a freeze of nearly $160 million in state spending in response to state revenues lagging about $500 million behind budget projections through December 31, 2011. While most state departments and agencies will experience a 3% funding reduction, the four state run universities will experience a 5% reduction and the Department of Transportation will experience a 7.6% reduction in spending. Most state medical assistance programs avoided reductions, except that supplemental payments for OB/NICU care, burn units, trauma care and critical access hospitals will be reduced by 10%. The Hospital Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) is concerned that the Governor may seek to retain additional hospital funds under Act 49 during the next budget cycle, and lobbying efforts have already begun to oppose any additional cuts to hospital reimbursement.
- Legislative Redistricting: As previously reported, Pennsylvania lawmakers are required to redraw federal and state legislative districts every ten years based on the most recent national census data. On December 12, 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved new maps for Pennsylvania house and senate districts. The plan moves the 45th Senate District from Allegheny County to parts of Monroe County and Northampton County and shifts the St. Luke’s Wind Gap Medical Center from Senator Browne’s (R-Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton) district into the new 45th Senate District. State Representative Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) has expressed interest in running for the newly defined senate seat. Four house districts were also moved, including the 22nd House District from Allegheny County to Lehigh County to create a new district in Allentown. Allentown City Councilman Peter Schweyer (D) intends to run for the newly defined house seat. The modifications will become effective during Pennsylvania ’s primary election on April 24, 2012.
The Commission also adopted a new federal congressional district map for Pennsylvania, which reduced the number of districts in Pennsylvania from 19 to 18. The new map moves Easton and parts of Northampton County from Congressman Charlie Dent’s (PA-15-R) district into Congressman Tim Holden’s (PA-17-D) district. Congressman Holden’s district continues to include St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Hospital and now also includes St. Luke’s Hospital – Anderson Campus and St. Luke’s Wind Gap Medical Center.
- S.B. 1357: Telehealth. Pennsylvania’s medical assistance program currently limits reimbursement for telehealth services to consultations performed by maternal fetal medicine specialists providing high risk obstetrical care and certain psychiatric consultations. On December 14, 2011, Senator Pat Browne (R-Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton) introduced legislation requiring the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to eliminate any regulation requiring a health care professional utilizing telehealth to be in the physical presence of the patient in order to be reimbursed by state Medicaid programs. The legislation further requires that Medicaid rates established by DPW for telehealth services be consistent with rates for services provided in person. Senators Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton) and Bob Mensch (R-Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton) serve as co-sponsors of the legislation, which has been assigned to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. A similar bill has been introduced in the House. HAP supports both bills.
New Jersey Issues
- Legislative Redistricting: On December 23, 2011, the New Jersey Redistricting Commission adopted a new Congressional district map effective during the New Jersey primary on June 5, 2012. Under the new map, Warren Hospital moves from Congressman Scott Garrett’s (NJ-5-R) district into Congressman Leonard Lance’s (NJ-7-R) district. Congressman Lance was elected to the United States House of Representatives in November 2008 and was reelected to a second term on November 2, 2010. Prior to his election to Congress, he served as a member of the New Jersey State Senate beginning in 2002. Before entering the state senate, the Congressman served in the New Jersey General Assembly for 11 years (1991-2002), where he chaired the Budget Committee. Warren Hospital enjoys a strong relationship with Congressman Lance.
- Attorney General Transition: On December 12, 2011, Governor Chris Christie (R) announced the transition of State Attorney General Paula Dow to the role of Deputy General Counsel of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey effective as of January 1, 2012. Following that assignment, Dow will be nominated to the State Superior Court for Essex County. The Office of Attorney General reviewed the transactions contemplated by the definitive agreement between Warren Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital & Health Network pursuant to the Community Health Care assets Protection Act (CHAPA) and supported approval of the transactions by the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Governor Christie nominated his Chief Counsel, Jeffrey Chiesa, to replace Attorney General Dow. Prior to his appointment as the Governor’s Chief Counsel, Chiesa acted as the Executive Director of Governor Christie’s transition team. Chiesa previously served as a partner at the law firm of Wolf & Samson and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of New Jersey from 2002 to 2009. Chiesa is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (1987), where he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, and The Catholic University of America (1990), where he received his law degree. The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee approved Chiesa’s nomination on January 5, 2012, and the full senate is expected to approve the nomination within the next few weeks.
- Medicare Physician Fee Schedule: On December 23, 2011, President Obama signed into law legislation averting for two months the 27.4% decrease to the Medicare physician fee schedule otherwise planned for January 1, 2012. The measure also extends for two months the hospital reclassification payments under Section 508 of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Section 508 permits qualifying hospitals to reclassify into adjoining geographic areas with higher payment rates. Warren Hospital was one of 121 hospitals reclassified pursuant to Section 508. Without legislative action, Warren Hospital would have experienced an estimated annual Medicare payment reduction of $2.5 million. Twenty lawmakers, including Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (PA-13-D), have been appointed to serve on a bicameral conference committee in order to facilitate a long term solution. HAP, the American Hospital Association and Premier are committed to working with the committee during negotiations to try to prevent further payment reductions to hospitals.