October 31, 2014

Nov. 3 PA Environment Digest Now Available

Nov. 3 PA Environment Digest Now Available.  Click Here To Print Entire Digest.

PEC Q/A With Gov. Corbett, Tom Wolf On Environmental Issues, Now You Decide
Tuesday, November 4 you get to decide whether Tom Corbett (R) or Tom Wolf (D) will be Governor the next four years.
Here are the responses the candidates gave in May to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to questions on important environmental issues.  They are still very relevant today as voters go to the polls.

Stormwater Permit In Lititz Boon To Rock ‘n’ Roll Town, Water Quality, Sets Precedent
Thanks to the likes of the Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, Willie Nelson and other music stars, the Chesapeake Bay will benefit from cleaner upstream waters in one Susquehanna River tributary.
The Lancaster County Conservation District and the Department of Environmental Protection have authorized a permit for an innovative post-construction stormwater management plan for Rock Lititz, the $100 million rehearsal campus catering to the rock-concert industry.

Call For Presentations: High School, College Student Symposium On The Environment
Westminster College and the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition are again sponsoring the Student Symposium on the Environment December 4 at the McKelvey Campus Center, Witherspoon Rooms and Mueller Theater, Westminster College

Keep PA Beautiful: Electronics Waste Collections In Juniata, Mercer, Venango Counties
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful affiliates invite local residents to dispose of electronics properly. PA CleanWays of Venango County, Tri-County CleanWays and Keep Juniata County Beautiful are holding electronic collections during the month of November.

Feature: Great Strides With MEGA-Transect Chestnut Project In PA
In 2014, Mike and Kieu Manes played a tremendous role in moving the Appalachian Trail  MEGA-Transect Chestnut Project forward in Pennsylvania. This project trains volunteer hikers to recognize and count surviving American chestnut trees, as they hike along the Appalachian Trail.

Calvin Ernst, Ernst Conservation Seeds, Honored By Penn State, Atlantic Seed Association
Calvin Ernst, founder and president of Ernst Conservation Seeds in Meadville, Crawford County, was recently honored for a lifetime of contributions to the native seed industry by the Atlantic Seed Association and Penn State University during separate events.

Friday NewsClips

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October 30, 2014

Corbett Announces Mcare Assessment Down Almost 50% For 2015 Coverage

Gov. Tom Corbett Thursday announced Pennsylvania physicians and hospitals will see significant savings in the cost of the catastrophic level of medical malpractice insurance coverage next year.
The assessment for Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (Mcare) for 2015 will decrease 48 percent from the prior year.
“Today’s announcement reflects improvement in our medical malpractice climate due in part to tort reforms, including the Fair Share Act and enactment of Apology Rule legislation, as well as other factors, such as the operational benefits of Mcare,” said Gov. Corbett. “When Mcare claim payments go down, the savings are immediately passed on to healthcare providers.”
Mcare assessments are based upon rates at the Joint Underwriting Association. The assessment rate for 2015 will drop to 12 percent of the JUA rates, compared to 23 percent in 2014. The assessment was also further reduced by using funds not needed to pay claims in prior years.
Claim payments for the 2015 assessment year were $156 million, compared to $194 million for the 2014 assessment year. An additional $61 million in funds remaining from prior years was also used in the new assessment calculation. This is based on methodology agreed to in the recent lawsuit settlements challenging certain previous assessments.
Some examples of the overall, expected savings would include:
— A neurosurgeon in Philadelphia, who paid $36,447 in 2014, will pay $19,016 in 2015. Neurosurgeons in Allegheny or Dauphin counties, who paid $20,273 in 2014, will pay $10,577 in 2015.
— A family physician in Philadelphia, who paid $5,054 in 2014, will pay $2,637 in 2015. Family physicians in Allegheny or Dauphin counties, who paid $2,881 in 2014, will pay $1,503 in 2015.
The Mcare Act, enacted in March 2002, created the Mcare Fund, a special fund of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department that provides medical malpractice liability coverage. The law requires all hospitals and practicing physicians to have at least $1 million of medical liability coverage -- $500,000 of which must be obtained from a private insurance carrier, the Joint Underwriting Association, or a self-insured program. The other $500,000 is obtained from Mcare.
Assessments are paid into the Mcare Fund rather than premiums. The assessment formula includes claim payments and expenses from the previous claims year.
Further information on specific 2015 assessment rates for health care providers will be available shortly on the Insurance Department website.

New Harper Poll Shows Corbett Down 10 Points

A new Harper Poll released Thursday shows Tom Wolf at 50 percent and Gov. Tom Corbett at 40 percent.   Wolf was down two points from a Harper Poll in September.

Thursday NewsClips

Official Election Results? The Department of State is testing their election reporting webpages and where other fictitious election results for the House and Senate are split evenly between candidates, the state site is reporting Corbett won the election 50.02 percent to Wolf’s 49.98 percent.  (As of this writing at least.)
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October 29, 2014

Wednesday NewsClips

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October 28, 2014

October 27, 2014

Corbett Signs Prescription Drug Monitoring, Physician Dispensing Reform Bills

Gov. Tom Corbett Monday signed into law Senate Bill 1180 (Vance-R-Cumberland) (now Act 191) and House Bill 1846 (Quinn-R-Montgomery) (now Act 184), fulfilling recommendations developed by the Heroin and Other Opioids Workgroup that he convened in May to address the heroin and opioid prescription drug abuse problem in Pennsylvania and completing the final piece of his Healthy Pennsylvania plan.
Gov. Corbett approved the workgroup recommendations in September, which included the expansion of current initiatives, collaboration between both public and private sectors, and working with state lawmakers.
“Prescription drug monitoring will provide access for healthcare professionals to enhance a patient’s coordination of care so that we can support individuals who suffer with prescription drug addiction,” Gov. Corbett said. “The other legislation I’m signing today will reform physician dispensing in the state’s workers’ compensation system, saving Pennsylvania employers approximately $13 million annually in the cost of their workers’ compensation premiums.”
Senate Bill 1180 is the final piece of Gov. Corbett’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan, announced last September, to be fully approved and enter implementation. Sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland), it establishes the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) database within the Department of Health.
The electronic data monitoring system will maintain a record of controlled substances that are prescribed and dispensed in the Commonwealth, for the purpose of improving patient care.
“A strong and effective prescription drug monitoring program will result in better health outcomes for Pennsylvanians,” Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Carrie DeLone said. “Healthcare professionals will now be able to check if their patient recently had a prescription filled and either safely prescribe medication or identify individuals who may have a prescription drug addiction so that they can be properly referred for treatment.”
The bill also creates an ABC-MAP board that will oversee the establishment and management of the program. Board members will include the secretaries from Health, Human Services, Drug and Alcohol Programs, State, and Aging, as well as the Insurance Commissioner, State Police Commissioner, Physician General and Attorney General.
House Bill 1846, sponsored by Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R-Bucks) reforms the practice of physician dispensing in the state’s workers’ compensation system to save Pennsylvania employers approximately $13 million annually in the cost of their workers’ compensation premiums.
“Pennsylvania employers shouldn’t have to pay a higher cost for drugs dispensed by a physician compared to the same drugs dispensed at a pharmacy,” Gov. Corbett said. “House Bill 1846 creates an equitable system that preserves the doctor-patient relationship while improving the commonwealth’s ability to attract and retain businesses.”
The cost difference between a prescription that is pharmacy-dispensed and the same one that is physician-dispensed spurred this legislation. For example, according to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, one Percocet costs $0.64 when dispensed at a pharmacy, but costs an employer $3.11 when physician-dispensed as part of a workers’ compensation case.
“In recent years, the practice of physician dispensing has driven up workers’ compensation costs with no improvement in the health outcomes for the injured worker,” Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway said. “House Bill 1846 removes the incentive to over-prescribe costly drugs, helping to slow the growing dependency on powerful painkillers, and curbing the abuses and dangers of patients visiting multiple physicians to obtain the same prescription medication.”
While House Bill 1846 places certain limits on physician dispensing, it does not limit prescriptions by a physician nor prohibit the dispensing of drugs by an outpatient provider. The provider can continue to prescribe as they have in the past and the patient will have immediate access to medication if deemed necessary by their treating physician.
“I want to commend the governor for his swift action on these two bills,” Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis said. “Prescription drug monitoring will quite simply, save lives; while the reforms instituted with physician dispensing will complement the efforts already underway to reach general practitioners, emergency rooms and dentists and help to monitor the frequency and effectiveness of the prescribing of opioids.”

PA Judicial Conduct Board Announces Retirement Of Justice McCaffery

PA Supreme Court Justice Seamus P. McCaffery, caught in the middle of the scandal involving explicit emails, Monday announced his retirement from the Court and his agreement not to again seek elective judicial office.
Based on a limited waiver by Justice Seamus P. McCaffery of the confidentiality provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Judicial Conduct Board’s Rules of Procedure that would otherwise prohibit the Board from commenting on the matters pending before it, the Board issues the following statement in light of Justice McCaffery’s retirement from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:
Pursuant to its constitutional mandate, the Judicial Conduct Board has been investigating allegations involving Justice McCaffery for several months, including some of very recent origin which have been disclosed in the media.
If the Board were to continue its investigations and institute proceedings against Justice McCaffery in the Court of Judicial Discipline, and if it were to sustain its heavy burden of proof on any charge, the most serious sanction that could be imposed is removal from office and a bar to holding judicial office in the future.  
Since Justice McCaffery has retired and has agreed not to seek senior judge status and not to again seek elective judicial office, the Board has concluded that it is in the best interest of the judiciary and the judicial system of the Commonwealth to dismiss its investigations into the matters specifically referred to in the Supreme Court’s now-vacated order of October 20, 2014.
Accordingly, the Board will dismiss its investigations into these matters.
NewsClip: Suspended Justice Retires Because Of Porn Email

Monday NewsClips

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