In 2019, the Healthy Me PA community made its voice heard throughout the halls of the state Capitol and helped to secure numerous legislative victories to improve our health care policies and practices in Pennsylvania.
Before we buckle up for what’s sure to be a health-care-issue-filled election year, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work the Healthy Me PA community has done in 2019 to help all of us improve health care in the Keystone State.
In a classic mobilization to action, more than 400 Healthy Me PA community members signed a petition urging the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to support and improve behavioral health. That outpouring of support helped to convince lawmakers to approve House Resolution 268, which paves the way for the Joint State Government Commission to study the state of behavioral health in Pennsylvania and identify areas for improvement.
Several sessions’ worth of consistent advocacy by the community resulted in the Legislature passing a telemedicine bill to give greater health care access to all Pennsylvanians.
Telemedicine uses electronic communication such as two-way video, smartphones, and wireless tools to allow medical providers to deliver high-quality health care to patients at the right time, in the right place. The legislation, Senate Bill 857, which needs one more nod from the state Senate before heading to the governor, would prevent insurers from prohibiting reimbursement for a service solely because it was provided via telemedicine.
The community made a difference in this year’s state budget negotiations as well, successfully urging lawmakers to keep using the tobacco settlement fund for health care, not to pay down state debt. This funding includes support for hospitals to care for vulnerable patients through uncompensated care or extraordinary expense payments, as well as funds for CURE grants supporting health research.
The community’s persistence also helped in the state’s decision to fund Medicaid supplemental budget lines for trauma centers and obstetric and neonatal intensive care units. Medicaid supplemental lines for burn units and the commonwealth’s critical access hospitals were given a slight increase to account for additional hospitals or units becoming part of the system during the 2019–2020 fiscal year.
A major policy undertaking for our community this past year has been workplace safety for health care workers in Pennsylvania hospitals.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that incidents of serious workplace violence were four times more common in health care than in private industry, on average. In fact, the rate of workplace violence injuries has increased 72 percent within 105 hospitals participating in the Occupational Health Safety Network.
In response to this alarming trend, you helped to convince the state Senate to approve legislation, Senate Bill 842, which allows health care workers to remove their last names from their facility ID badges. In the past, individuals have used this information to harass and assault health care practitioners inside and outside the workplace.
As the bill moves to the House of Representatives, we encourage the community to continue emailing lawmakers or texting “Healthy Me” to 52886 to keep hospital workplace safety on the legislative agenda.
With these many accomplishments under your belt, we thank each of you for every email, text, and phone call made to your elected officials in the name of better health care.
As we ready ourselves for more policy battles in 2020, we’re heartened to be surrounded by such an energized, informed, and active community. Here’s to the year that we’ve had, and here’s to continued health care advocacy success in the future.