Capitol Roundup: Wolf hails Pa. Supreme Court decision as victory for seniors, disabled

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf said this week’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to allow his 2015 homecare executive order to proceed is a victory for seniors and people with disabilities.

“The court’s decision affirms a key part of my plan to provide choices for seniors, improve home and community-based care and attract more qualified homecare attendants,” said the governor in a press release.

Wolf said Pennsylvania’s older population is rapidly growing — by 2030, one in four people in the state will be age 65 and older, and half of those will need some form of daily care. Wolf said most seniors prefer to live in their own home with their families to get that care.

“They deserve to have that choice while also saving costs to taxpayers,” Wolf said. “We must prepare now to meet the demand and ensure the homecare sector can attract the qualified workers to care for those who need it most.”

Wolf signed the executive order in January 2015 as a first step in re-balancing the state’s homecare system. The order ensures that homecare workers have a voice in shaping the future of the industry and seniors have choices about where to receive care. The executive order does not grant collective bargaining rights to workers, does not force them to join a union, does not make them state employees, and does not give them a right to enter into a contract with the state.

Since the order was signed, the departments of Aging and Human Services have been successfully implementing programs to expand services for older Pennsylvanians, reduce long-term care costs and ensure seniors have choices about where to age, as well as launching an online homecare directory.

To address providing access to quality care in seniors’ home and communities, the Wolf Administration successfully launched Community HealthChoices (CHC) in the southwest region in January 2018. Now, approximately 80,000 participants have an active voice in how and where they receive their services and supports. When fully implemented, CHC will impact the lives of 420,000 Pennsylvanians, 94 percent of whom are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The CHC program will be rolled out in Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2019 and the remainder of the state in 2020.

Toomey supports bill to

modernize PACE program

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, is among several legislators who have introduced bipartisan legislation to speed up the modernization of Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which allows seniors with complex care needs to continue living at home.

“Pennsylvania’s PACE programs help thousands of seniors who need an institutional level of treatment remain in their homes while still receiving quality medical care,” Toomey said. “As enrollment in PACE continues to grow, the program’s regulations must be flexible enough for providers to introduce new medical technologies that allow for better coordinated care.”

Joining Toomey in introducing the bill are Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), along with U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

“We have a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable among us, and PACE organizations around the country help us to do just that by providing comprehensive and high-quality care to both seniors and those living with disabilities,” Carper said. “This bipartisan legislation will help to ensure that PACE remains an integral component of care for American senior citizens, and I urge both the House and Senate to take it up and pass it quickly.”

Walorski said seniors facing health challenges should have the option to receive high-quality, comprehensive health care while continuing to live at home, and the PACE program helps them do that.

Blumenauer said the PACE program has proven to be extremely beneficial to the elderly and individuals living with disabilities nationwide.

The legislation would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to finalize updated regulations for PACE programs by the end of the year.

In May 2015, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent letters urging the Secretary of Health and Human Services to prioritize updating the existing regulatory framework, which is more than a decade old. An updated rule was proposed nearly two years ago but has not been finalized.

Mullery, Policy Committee

explore technical education

State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, this week hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing at IBEW 163 JATC Training Center in Hanover Township to discuss how students can better prepare themselves for their future through technical education.

“In order to meet the demands of the jobs of the future, we must help students to learn what skills and training will be needed for those jobs,” Mullery said. “Everyone isn’t suited for a four-year college degree and that’s good because every good-paying job doesn’t require one.”

Mullery serves as Democratic chairman of the House Education Subcommittee on Career and Technical Education.

Mullery was joined by a number of state representatives, including Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.

The committee heard testimony from Allyson Knox, director of education policy and programs, Microsoft; Carrie Amann, deputy secretary of policy and planning, Office of Gov. Tom Wolf; and Jeanne Miller, co-lead of the Carbon, Schuylkill, Luzerne STEM Ecosystem.

The meeting is one in a series being held across the state on the House Democrats’ Plan4PA that includes putting people first, good jobs, quality schools and fair taxes. Visit for additional information.

PennDOT warns drivers as

school buses return to road

As the new school year gets underway, motorists need to be vigilant to avoid potentially tragic crashes and strong penalties as school buses return to the roads and transport children.

“Our lives are filled with distractions, but we simply must put them aside and focus on the road ahead when we get behind the wheel,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards in a press release. “Even a momentary distraction — especially around school buses and in school zones — can lead to tragedy.”

Motorists approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended are required to stop in all directions at least 10 feet from the bus. The only exception to the law is when a school bus is stopped on the opposite side of a highway clearly separated by a divider, such as concrete barriers or grass medians. Even in this situation, motorists should remain watchful of students trying to cross the road to catch the bus.

If convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law, drivers face a $250 fine, five points on their driving record and a 60-day license suspension.

Students are also exposed to traffic while waiting for buses or walking to the bus stop or school. Motorists are reminded to be cautious and alert when approaching a school bus stop and to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

In addition to watching for buses, motorists should be alert in school zones, which become hubs of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Motorists are required to slow down to the posted speed limit of 15 mph in school zones. If convicted, violators face a fine and three points on their driving record.

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.