Welcome Back Econo Lodge Bloomsburg

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Econo Lodge Bloomsburg, to help us fulfill our mission.

Previously a member that the Chamber is happy to welcome back, Econo Lodge is located at 189 Columbia Mall Dr., Bloomsburg, next to the Columbia Mall and Quaker Steak & Lube. It features 80 rooms, a fitness center, breakfast area with complimentary breakfast daily, free WiFi and also offers pet accommodations. Econo Lodge was the winner of a Gold Hospitality Award from Choice Hotels in both 2015 and 2016. Gold Hospitality Awards annually recognize the top 10 percent of hotel properties within each Choice Hotels brand. Under new ownership since May, Econo Lodge will soon be undergoing renovations, which are scheduled to get underway this fall, and will end with it being rebranded as a Quality Inn, another Choice Hotels brand, sometime next spring. The renovation project will include new furniture for the guest rooms and an expansion of the breakfast area and fitness center, among other things. For more information, visit its website, or call general manager Montana Jandrasitz at 570-387-0490. 

Being Better Consumers: How to Control the Cost of Health Care Through Price Transparency

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

As the cost of health care continues to rise, it is crucial for consumers to better understand the actual cost of health care and the need for greater price transparency.

“After all, we practice consumerism when it comes to shopping at the grocery store, buying clothes and other products and services. We shop for sales, compare prices, brands and research online with one goal in mind — to find the lowest price and save money,” says Ron Smuch, insurance and benefits analyst at JRG Advisors.

Smart Business spoke with Smuch about how employers can encourage price transparency in their health plans.

Why isn’t the consumerism that comes so naturally in other areas of our lives used in health care?

Understanding the true price of health care can be mind-boggling. Rates and costs can fluctuate depending on your insurance plan and where services are provided. Often, as a patient, we have no idea the total amount we will pay for a test or procedure until we receive the bill from the insurance company. We rely on the assumption that we simply ‘have insurance’ with no consideration or research as to the actual cost of a procedure.

Greater price transparency allows consumers to clearly see the price of treatment and determine their out-of-pocket costs before receiving care. The importance of transparency is such that there are several provisions in the Affordable Care Act addressing the issue. Although there are requirements for health plans as to transparency and reporting, there has yet to be full implementation of the law.

How else can price transparency lower health care costs?

In addition to educating consumers, price transparency in health care can also lower costs for claims payments and common medical services. When consumers are aware of the price for tests, procedures or medications, they pay more attention to treatment options, provider options and the actual need for a given test and whether there is a more affordable option available. Ultimately, known pricing creates smart shopping. Health care cost transparency creates competition, which lowers costs.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that allowing patients to access price information for several medical procedures before obtaining health care services could lead to lower health care costs. The study targeted medical claims paid by employers on behalf of their employees after a price transparency tool was made available to them. The costs for employees who utilized the price transparency tool were lowered by 14 percent for lab tests, 13 percent for imaging procedures and 1 percent for office visits, in comparison to employees who didn’t use the tool. The actual dollar savings for those using the transparency tool for imaging procedures equated to a per incident savings of $124.74, $3.45 for lab testing and $1.18 for office visits.

What tools are available to help promote price transparency?

Price transparency has slowly evolved through the continued popularity of health savings accounts and high deductible health plans in an effort for consumers to lower their health care spending. A person with a high deductible is more likely to be more conscious and concerned about price, which results in their curiosity to inquire about how much things cost. This will likely force medical providers to be more transparent with their pricing.

The on-going demand and attention to price transparency in health care has resulted in the development of medical cost savings companies offering price transparency tools that allow a consumer to ‘shop’ the price for medical services in their surrounding area often by zip code and before the time of service. These tools and capabilities are useful to consumers who want to compare prices in order to make more informed decisions about their health care.

Price transparency can have a tremendous impact, educating consumers about health care costs and their understanding that more expensive doesn’t always mean better. Furthermore, transparency can lead to a more efficient health care delivery system and curb rising costs.

PA Chamber to Hold Webinar on Federal Tax Reform

Since last year’s election and the new executive administration and legislators took their offices in January, one issue that has been discussed but hasn’t necessarily been at the forefront of the daily news is federal tax reform. That issue will likely be front and center soon, as congressional leaders have said they will be taking up the issue soon, and it is also one that when resolved, will likely have an impact on all businesses large and small. 

With that in mind, the PA Chamber of Business & Industry will hold a webinar about what businesses should do in preparation for the expected changes to the federal tax code in the next year. The webinar will be held on Friday, Oct. 20, from 11 am – noon. Visit the PA Chamber page for more information or to register. Also, below is the full description of the event (via the PA Chamber).

The Potential Impact of Federal Tax Reform Proposals on Businesses— between the broad outline of the Trump administration tax reform plan and the House Republicans’ “Blueprint” business tax plan, sweeping changes are being discussed for federal tax reform that could have a significant impact on companies, as well as individuals.  Indications are that some federal tax reform will become law in late 2017 or early 2018. 

While the final outcome is uncertain, businesses should consider taking immediate measures to best position themselves for anticipated changes to the tax code.  It’s important not to wait for the legislative process because many opportunities must be implemented, or require significant planning, before tax reform becomes effective.  Business decisions made now have a long-term economic impact that could change under tax reform. 

The objective of this webinar is to help companies understand the federal tax reform initiatives by providing strategies on what they should be doing now to plan for these reforms.  The presentation will be delivered by leading tax professionals from the Stevens & Lee/Griffin platform, including Scott Balestrier, former senior income tax partner at E&Y, KMPG, and Anderson; Jay Wagner, a noted estate tax lawyer; and Joe Harenza, Chairman of Stevens & Lee/ Griffin and CEO of Griffin Financial Group, one of the largest investment banks in the Northeast headquartered outside of NYC. They will discuss:

  • A Brief Overview of the Policy Considerations Driving Federal Tax Reform and related timing
    • Budget Deficits, Federal Debt, Sluggish GDP Growth
    • Less than Competitive Tax System
    • Stated Goals of Tax Reform
    • Challenges
    • Tax Reform: “If” and “When”
  • Outline and Analysis of Important Provisions
    • Individual Taxes: Income and Estate
    • Corporate Taxes, Taxation of Pass-through Entities
    • Capital Investment and Interest Expense
    • International Issues
  • Potential Impact of Tax Reform on M&A, Real Estate and Manufacturing and Industries
    • M&A for For-Profit Companies
    • Manufacturing
    • Other Industries

Also available to provide commentary on the international aspects of tax reform will be Wilfred Muskens, President of Stevens & Lee/Griffin International (SLGI) and Samuel A. McCullough, former Secretary of DCED and Chairman of SLGI.

Energy Savings Benefit the Bottom Line and Public Health

Al Neuner, Vice President of Facilities Operations for Geisinger, explains the operation of one of the numerous systems used to generate electricity at the Danville campus.

Improving energy efficiencies at your home and business will not only save you money, but also result in a healthier environment. Reducing the demand for traditional power generation lowers emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury, with tangible health benefits.

Opportunities to improve efficiencies can be as simple as replacing older lighting with LED bulbs to generating electricity on-site at a higher efficiency.

The Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance recently worked with Geisinger to host a tour of the Danville hospital’s campus to highlight ways companies can become more energy efficient. Through a variety of efforts, Geisinger has lowered its utility costs system-wide about $10 million annually. Utility expenses in 2016 with eight hospitals were lower than in 2010 with four hospitals. The Danville campus has a EPA Energy Star rating of 100%. The benefits of these energy efficiencies are discussed by Geisinger Vice President of Facilities Operations Al Neuner in the short YouTube video below.

A number of the efficiency improvements at Geisinger have been partially funded through Pennsylvania’s energy efficiency law, Act 129. The legislation requires each of the seven Pennsylvania electric distribution companies to reduce energy demand and consumption within its service territory. Utilities meet Act 129 targets by contracting with third party providers to implement programs. Ideas for improving efficiencies at your home or business are available at energystar.gov.

Kawneer Showcases State-of-the-Art Plant at September Business After Hours

Chamber members enjoyed delicious food and sweets from fellow member Lucy’s Kitchen & Catering and also had an opportunity to go on a tour of Kawneer’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Bloomsburg at September’s Business After Hours last Wednesday, Sept. 20. Those that went on the tour saw Kawneer’s massive plant where thousands of door and window frames, both standard and custom, are made each day. Attendees saw how the raw materials are molded into various shapes and sizes to fit all of the various orders that Kawneer receives from architects and builders all across the world, as well as how the frames are painted, welded and put through an automated production line run by robots.

Of course, in addition to the plant tour and outstanding food, attendees also enjoyed a chance to network with business colleagues and several also won prizes, which were provided by Kawneer and distributed to the winners by the Chamber later in the week. Attendees also were able to take home a puzzle of one of Kawneer’s most interesting and unique building jobs – the Museum at Prairiefire in Winona, Minn., for which Kawneer made all of the custom window and door frames at the Bloomsburg plant, as well as other building materials at other plants.

Business After Hours provide regular opportunities to build business relationships while learning about the services offered by other Chamber members. The next Business After Hours will be co-hosted by the Borough of Danville and SEDA-COG on Wednesday, Oct. 18 in the ballroom of the Danville Borough Hall, 239 Mill St., Danville. 

For more photos from last week’s event, check out the Chamber’s Facebook page