State House Bill Seeks to Reduce Opioid Abuse

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry is urging employers to contact House members in their area early this week to urge support for H.B. 18, important legislation related to prescription drug and opioid overuse and abuse among injured workers in Pennsylvania, which the House is scheduled to consider Tuesday, June 20.

House Bill 18 would implement a prescription drug formulary – which are standard in hospitals, regular healthcare, Medicare and other public insurance programs – to help ensure appropriate patient care and address over-use of prescription drugs. The bill is necessary because Pennsylvania is facing a prescription drug and opioid abuse epidemic, and seems to struggle particularly with respect to injured workers. As we reported last week in Sentinel, in a recent study of opioid prescriptions among injured workers in 25 states, Pennsylvania ranked third, with opioid use in the Commonwealth measuring 78 percent higher than the median study state. The flexible approach offered through H.B. 18 facilitates more efficient care for typical patients, allows exceptions for unique cases and addresses the outlier cases of over-prescribing.

Prior to a vote by the House Labor and Industry Committee last week, the PA Chamber and a coalition of business, medical, construction, energy and local government groups sent a memo to the committee urging support for the measure because it will help injured workers in Pennsylvania avoid problems too often associated with prescription drug use and get healthy and back to full function and employment as soon as possible.

Chamber Calls for Increased Child Care Funding

Following a $20 million cut to child care line items in the 2016-17 state budget, the spending plan passed earlier this spring in the House would reduce funding another $28 million. The proposed cuts would dramatically increase the waiting list for services and force families to make tough decisions on child care and possibly staying at home to take care of children. As proper child care and early childhood development have been shown to provide a solid foundation for developing social skills and life-long learning, the Chamber is asking Senate and House members to not only sustain, but consider increasing funding for child care.

Funding for child care is important for many reasons, including:

  • The proposed cuts to the Child Care Services and Child Care Assistance appropriations would eliminate services for more than 10,000 children and increase the waiting list for these services to 19,000 – the highest level in the state’s history. 
     
  • This funding supports child care subsidies for low-income working families, which allow parents to work while their children are in safe and stable child care. These cuts include:
    • a $10 million reduction that would negate the proposed expanded enrollment of 1,800 children on the child care waiting list;
    • the further reduction of $40.2 million in state funds that would mean the elimination of 6,885 children from the current program; and
    • a $12.7 million cut to the Child Care Assistance line item that provides for child care subsidies for families receiving TANF and SNAP and will potentially impact 2,018 low-income children receiving subsidies through this line item. 

The Governor’s budget proposal includes a $35 million increase for child care to begin to reverse this trend. Budget negotiations continue through June and both House and Senate leaders have said they will have a budget to the Governor by June 30.

Chamber Offers Support for Pipeline Project at DEP Hearing

On Tuesday, June 13, Chamber President Fred Gaffney issued comments in support of the Atlantic Sunrise Gas Pipeline Project at a hearing of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The hearing, held at the Bloomsburg High School, was specific to permits related to water obstruction and encroachment and erosion and sediment control. Pending approval of the permits, the project is expected to begin construction later this summer.

The Atlantic Sunrise Project, coordinated by Williams, will expand the Transco gas pipeline system with a new pipe approximately 185 miles long connecting the existing pipeline just north of Columbia County to southeast Pennsylvania. The project will allow more efficient transmission of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus natural gas. Construction will be divided into seven sections, and is expected to take one year. The economic impact for just Columbia County is estimated at $85.5 million.

The Chamber’s research indicates that modern pipeline technology provides among the safest methods of transporting natural gas. The Chamber Board previously passed a resolution supporting the expansion of Pennsylvania’s natural gas transportation and distribution pipeline infrastructure. Specific to this project, Williams has demonstrated its concern for property owners and the environment with the adoption of more than 400 route modifications affecting more than 60 percent of its original route.

More information on the DEP permit process is available on the agency’s website.

More information about the Atlantic Sunrise project is available here.

Members Learn About Medicare at Learn at Lunch

Chamber members enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the many and sometimes complex things that individuals need to do and remember when approaching the Medicare-eligible age of 65 at the Chamber’s bimonthly Learn at Lunch event, held at Wesley United Methodist Church on Tuesday, June 13 and presented by PPL Electric Utilities. Jacqueline Lucas, community relations representative at Geisinger Health Plan, gave a presentation that went over when and how to enroll in Medicare, coverage options, differences between Medicare Parts A, B, C and D, and the timing involved in collecting social security and how that can run concurrent with Medicare benefits. 

If you weren’t able to make it to this presentation but would like some additional information, GHP representatives are available to do individualized home visits to people at or near the Medicare eligibility age. Contact Jacqueline by email for additional information or call GHP member services at 1-800-498-9731. The Medicare and You handbook, published annually by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is also a valuable resource for those interested in learning more about this important subject of healthcare for retirees. 

The next Chamber Learn at Lunch is scheduled for Tuesday, August 8 at noon and will feature Mike Atchie from Williams, who will talk about the mobile app that is currently being developed by Williams for workers that come into our area from outside to work on the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. The app will feature information and listings of local businesses in order to encourage the patronage of local businesses. He will also speak about the current state of the pipeline project. Location is TBD. 

First Columbia’s Danville Branch Now Open

First Columbia Bank & Trust celebrated the opening of its new community banking office at 400 Walnut St. in Danville (Rt. 11) last Thursday morning, June 8, with a ribbon cutting. Several local dignitaries and members of the business community, including Columbia Montour Chamber President Fred Gaffney, were in attendance to cut the ribbon on First Columbia’s newest branch, its 14th location, and first in Montour County. 

For additional information on the new branch, including photos from the ribbon cutting and grand opening, visit First Columbia’s Facebook page.