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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Highmark – West Penn Merger Update

In 2011, the state’s largest insurer, Highmark, signed an affiliation agreement with the financially troubled West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) and its five Pittsburgh-area hospitals to create an integrated health system.  The goal of the acquisition is for the integrated health system to be a competitor to the largest hospital network in western Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)

Highmark West Penn Allegheny Health System Highmark West Penn Allegheny Health System Now, the acquisition agreement between Highmark and WPAHS is set to expire at the end of the month.  At this point, it is up to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to make a decision on whether the money being spent by Highmark will compromise the health care system’s ability to pay the claims of its customers while still providing for and meeting the health care needs of western Pennsylvanians. 

The state Insurance Department has been reviewing the $1.1 billion deal since November 2011 and hired Compass Lexecon of Chicago to analyze the public benefits of the acquisition and its effect on western Pennsylvania’s health care and insurance markets.  The Insurance Department has charged the Blackstone Advisory Partners of New York with analyzing the deal’s impact on Highmark’s finances and its insurance members. 

Last week, the consultant groups issued separate reports that concluded that the acquisition of WPAHS by Highmark is “a reasonable economic basis for substantial benefits to the public in the form of improved delivery of care, reduced rate of increase in health care costs, and enhanced competition, particularly in the hospital sector.” Furthermore, the firms feel that the transaction on its own would not likely jeopardize Highmark’s financial stability and it would take an unforeseen external circumstance, like another economic decline, to lessen Highmark’s financial condition and flexibility. 

State Insurance Department officials have been awaiting the reports as they consider whether to approve the affiliation.  While not decisive to the Department’s final finding, the reports are considered key to the Department’s final determination of the merger.  In the meantime, as a part of the Department’s ongoing public input process, comments on the reports and the planned acquisition will be accepted by the Insurance Department through Friday, April 19th.  Written comments should be directed to:

Robert Brackbill, Chief
Company Licensing Division
Insurance Department
1345 Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Email:  rbrackbill@pa.gov
Fax:  717-787-8557

To review the reports, please visit www.insurance.pa.gov.   

Hospitals and the health care industry are a major economic factor in the Pittsburgh region.  The recent disagreements between Highmark and UPMC have caused great concern and anxiety for the many people who are employed by these health care giants, customers, individuals and companies who do business in the industry, as well as local officials.  I am optimistic that the acquisition of WPAHS by Highmark could result in a more accessible, thriving health care market for all of southwestern Pennsylvania.  After all, when people have a choice, not only does it guarantee high quality care but it also helps to keep health care costs down for the customers.    

DCED Lowers Interest Rates

DCEDThe Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) recently announced that they are extending the time frame for lower interest rates for several DCED loan programs for businesses. DCED will also be waiving fees charged by DCED to the borrowers of these programs.  Initially, the new rates for these programs were for applications received through March 31st but a three month extension will apply the new rate to applications received through June 30th.   
 
Low-interest rates can be the best opportunity for growing profits and when businesses are succeeding, they in turn need more workers to meet those needs and demands. By reducing interest rates and the cost of borrowing, our state is encouraging new capital investment as well as freeing up operating cash which will essentially lead to a prosperous economic environment and new job creation. I support initiatives like these because I understand how much economic development can do for communities across the state.  Low-cost capital is also essential for making sure businesses are able to continue to build and thrive in the future.  

The following programs will continue to see the interest rate reduced from 2.75 percent to 1.50 percent:

  • Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund (MELF) – Provides low-interest loans to acquire and install new or used machinery/equipment or to upgrade existing machinery/equipment
  • Small Business First Program (SBF) – Provides low-interest financing for land and building acquisitions and construction as well as for machinery and equipment purchases
  • Pollution Prevention Assistance Program (PPAA) – Provides assistance for small businesses to implement pollution prevention and energy efficiency projects, enabling those businesses to adopt or install equipment or processes that reduce pollution, energy use or raw materials

For more information about these programs, please visit:  http://www.newpa.com/business/lower-rates.

Register Today for Skills for Success!

Skills for Success - The Fontana Series Skills for Success: The Fontana Series. Register Online! Two free workshops in the Skills for Success:  The Fontana Series remain at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP), Brookline branch, located at 708 Brookline Boulevard – tomorrow and Wednesday, April 24th.   If you are currently looking for a job, or are interested in boosting your skills that will help you land a desired position, sign up today for one of these free workshops, which will serve as a great resource for you.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) I was proud to partner with CLP in 2011, providing grant funding for this free series aimed at building skills and creating excellent resumes and applications that aid job seekers in achieving the positions they desire.  Whether you have already built a resume and are looking to fine-tune it, if you are starting from scratch and need help with organizing your work history, need assistance with searching for positions online, or require help in improving your interviewing skills, these free workshops will benefit you.

Rachel Masilamani and Richard Brzustowicz are again leading the Skills for Success: The Fontana Series, bringing over 10 years combined experience assisting library visitors with job hunting, online applications and resume writing.  The series features two separate workshops:  one focused on resumes and cover letters, and the other dedicated to interviews and networking.  The series also contains a career lab where attendees can work on online applications and explore library resources that can assist them in the job searching process.

Job seekers today face fierce competition in securing employment.  The Skills for Success: The Fontana Series aims to equip job seekers with the tools they need to improve their chances at landing a desired position.  Due to limited space, registration is required for workshops; however, walk-ins are welcome for the career labs.  The schedule for the next round of workshops in the Skills for Success: The Fontana Series is listed below.  In May, the series will move to CLP branches in West End and Mt. Washington.  To register for any of the remaining workshops please call 412-281-7141, ext. 2012 or email careerworkshops@carnegielibrary.org.

CLP – Brookline
708 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA  15226
Wednesday, April 17 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Wednesday, April 24 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops: 3-5 p.m., Career Labs: 5–7 p.m.
CLP – West End
47 Wabash Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15220
Tuesday, May 7 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Wednesday, May 8 – Interviewing & Networking
Tuesday, May 14 – Interviewing & Networking
Wednesday, May 15 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Workshops: Noon-2 p.m., Career Labs: 2-4 p.m.
CLP – Mt. Washington
315 Grandview Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15211
Thursday, May 23 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, May 30 – Interviewing & Networking 
Thursday, June 6 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, June 13 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops: 1-3 p.m., Career Labs: 3-5 p.m.

Register to Vote!

Vote PAIf you are not registered to vote and wish to vote in the May 21st Primary Election, you must register with the Allegheny County Office of Elections no later than Monday, April 22nd. Individuals needing to register may apply in person between the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday at the Office of the Registration Commission, Room 609 of the County Office Building. The County Office Building is located at 542 Forbes Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. The Elections Division will remain open until 5 p.m. on April 22nd to accept hand-delivered voter registration forms. All registration forms being mailed must be postmarked by April 22nd in order to be processed for the May primary.

You may also visit one of my district offices to obtain a voter registration form. If you would like to obtain a form online, you can download and print a form at www.votespa.com. If you have questions about your registration or would like your registration verified, please all the Allegheny County Elections Division at 412-350-4510.

Financial Literacy Month

PHEAA pheaa April is recognized both nationally and by the Commonwealth as Financial Literacy Month.  During this period when many high school seniors are preparing for college and many college seniors are preparing for a career, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) wants to help strengthen financial awareness.  Making smart financial decisions now can put young adults on a path to long-term financial success.

You Can Deal With It You Can Deal With It PHEAA has launched a website that can help young adults establish a healthy financial foundation – www.YouCanDealWithIt.com.  This debt management website can assist with:

  • Getting finance-related paperwork organized
  • Borrowing responsibly
  • Developing and sticking to a budget
  • Saving money for emergencies, “wish-list” items, vacations and long-term financial stability
  • Using credit cards wisely to establish positive credit history
  • Knowing your credit score

YouCanDealWithIt is not only for college students and recent graduates.  It has information for anyone interested in getting direction about managing their finances and developing a financial game plan to meet their needs.

Here to Help

Here to Help is a website launched by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that serves as a resource on various subjects to assist citizens who may be experiencing economic difficulties and directs them where to go.  This site, www.heretohelp.pa.gov can assist visitors that need help with unemployment benefits, heating and utility bills, job searches, and finding the lowest cost for prescription medications, just to name a few of the many services. 

While Here to Help is a great resource and I encourage individuals to visit the site, please know that I and my staff are always available to assist you.  Since my election in 2005, we have always made sure that any constituent who comes to us has their problem solved and if we can’t solve the problem directly, we at least provide direction to get a solution.

Stop Bullying

Stop BullyingKeystone Oaks School District is hosting an anti-bullying program on April 22nd at the high school’s Michael A. Callara Auditorium at 7 p.m.  The event is open to the public and will feature Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Laura Ditka and community member John Wooliscroft discussing bullying and cyber bullying.  Topics include:  definitions of bullying; key differences between bullying and cyber bullying; the dangers associated with bullying and cyber bullying; and how to help prevent bullying.

Bullying and cyber bullying are serious issues that need to be addressed.  I recently signed on as a co-sponsor to a proposal being offered by my Senate Democratic colleague, Senator LeAnna Washington, which begins to address bullying by ensuring schools have policies in place to prevent and identify bullying incidents.  You can read more about bullying, including risk factors and warning signs and how to help and prevent bullying at www.stopbullying.gov.

Did You Know…

Love our Children USA

Did you know according to Love Our Children USA that one of every four children is bullied and that one of every five children admits to being a bully?  8% of students miss at least one day of school each month for fear of being bullied.

Focus On Renewal

Landmarks Housing Resource Center (LHRC) Landmarks Housing Resource Center (LHRC) All food and financial donations to Focus on Renewal's (FOR) Emergency Food Pantry in April will help the organization earn grant money from The Feinstein Foundation.  Mr. Alan Shawn Feinstein is a philanthropist from Rhode Island who is known for his “annual $1 million giveaway” to feed the hungry.  FOR is participating in this campaign for the fifth year.  When anyone donates to FOR through April 30th, Mr. Feinstein will donate to them some of the matching funds.  Cash, checks and food (valued at $1.00 per item) qualify.
For more information on food donations, please contact Larry Rodgers at 412-771-6460, ext. 212 or lrodgers@forstorox.org.  To make a financial gift, please call Chris Crytzer at 412-771-6460, ext. 305 or ccrytzer@forstorox.org.  If you are interested in donating to FOR, checks can be made payable to Focus On Renewal (with “Feinstein” on the memo line) and mailed to Focus On Renewal, 701 Chartiers Avenue, McKees Rocks, PA 15136. Donations of non-perishable food can be dropped off at FOR’s community center, 701 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Three Community Benefit Organizations Recognized

PANOThree local Community Benefit Organizations were recently certified under the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organization's (PANO) Standards for Excellence Program.  Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council, and the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh were certified under this comprehensive ethics and accountability program. 

The Standards for Excellence Program offers tools and resources to participating organizations to empower them to meet the highest standards of nonprofit governance, management and operations. The program strongly emphasizes educating board members in providing appropriate oversight and in providing several “best practice” sample policies and forms to allow organizations to have strong accountability practices in place. 

As certified, these organizations are committed to advancing ethics and accountability of operations and have opened themselves to an extensive review process.  They join a total of 51 nonprofit organizations around the Commonwealth to earn certification.  Congratulations to these organizations for achieving their certification under the Standards for Excellence Program and for the commitment they have made to the rigorous application and review process.  To learn more about the PANO Standards for Excellence Program, please visit www.pano.org.

Taste of Brookline

Taste of Brookline Taste of Brookline The Second Annual Taste of Brookline is rapidly approaching, scheduled for April 28th from 2 – 5 p.m. at the Church of the Resurrection gymnasium in Brookline.  The South Pittsburgh Development Corporation hosts the annual event that promotes the great assets found in Brookline and showcases local cuisine while helping to raise funds for revitalization efforts and community-based projects in the neighborhood.  In addition to food and drink samples from local establishments, live entertainment will be provided with the music of Jack Stanizzo of The Contrails and guitarist Paul Lowe.  Tickets can be purchased online at www.tasteofbrookline.com or in person at A-Boss, Cannon Coffee, or Kribel’s Bakery along Brookline Boulevard.

Fontana Fact

NCAA Frozen Four Tournament NCAA Frozen Four Tournament The 2013 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Frozen Four was played at CONSOL Energy Center last weekend and featured Yale University, Quinnipiac University, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and St. Cloud State University.  This was the first time Pittsburgh hosted the Frozen Four and the first time the event has ever been played in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Yale made its first Frozen Four appearance since 1952 and Quinnipiac, UMass-Lowell and St. Cloud State all made their first appearances in the Frozen Four.  Yale defeated Quinnipiac 4-0 in the Championship Game to win its first title.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Vote PA Focus on Renewals PANO Stop Bullying Love Our Children USA DCED