Subscribe to this e-update  
Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Historic Agreement Between Health Giants, UPMC and Highmark

UPMC/HighmarkA miraculous deal has been brokered between the health giants UPMC and Highmark.  After months of lawsuits and negotiations, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro together with the two healthcare organizations announced that UPMC has reached an agreement with Highmark to enter into a 10-year contract that will provide Highmark members with in-network access to any UPMC physician/facility that a patient would like to see not only in Pittsburgh but also throughout the western Pennsylvania region and Erie.  This is the longest deal that UPMC has ever made with an insurer. 

The agreement was achieved by a collaboration between all parties involved as well as compromises in which the best interests of the patients and communities the health systems serve are met so that our citizens will continue to receive the world-renown care they are used to.  This contract which has been signed by all parties, will go into effect July 1, the day after the expiration of the consent decrees, guaranteeing that there will be no disruption in services provided.  Attorney General Shapiro has expressed that all lawsuits have been withdrawn at this time as well.

Although this is a major victory for Pennsylvanians, we cannot stop here.  Last week Senator Costa introduced Discharge Resolutions 1 and 2 which is a parliamentary procedure that essentially discharges a petition to bring a bill, or in this case bills, out of a committee and onto the floor for consideration without being voted on by that committee.  Being a member of the minority party sometimes requires actions like these, when the majority party is not bringing up bills that are necessary to the health and safety of our constituents.  Although this deal promises that our healthcare needs are met for the next 10 years, there are no terms in place that would prevent this situation from happening again here at home or in other parts of the state. 

Discharge Resolutions 1 and 2 contain the language of Senator Costa’s Senate Bill 310 (SB 310) and Senate Bill 311 (SB 311) which would create a legal structure that makes integrated delivery networks contract with any willing insurer.  If the parties are unwilling to come to an agreement on their own, the networks would then enter mandatory binding arbitration to determine payment and contractual terms.  Although there are no guarantees that the majority party will bring these resolutions up for a vote on the Senate floor, it’s one more tactic that we are willing to use to make sure our voices are heard. 

Additionally, last session I introduced Senate Bill 717 (SB 717) and Senate Bill 718 (SB 718) that would require non-profit organizations that own real property to pay taxes on the assessed value of the land only (not building), with the first $500,000 of land value being exempt from taxation. The exemption would apply to all property owned by the organization, not per parcel.  With the recent events that have been taking place regarding UPMC, their charitable status and record profits, many have questioned whether changes need to take place so that these large corporations start contributing more to address the fiscal climate many of the neighborhoods they are in are facing.  For this reason, I have had this language drafted as an amendment to one of the many bills that will be considered during this budget process.  Between Senator Costa’s resolutions and my amendment, the Senate Allegheny County delegation is taking a more aggressive approach to make sure we aren’t faced with the same problems down the road when dealing with corporate giants.   

Make no mistake that yesterday’s announcement is a major victory for patients, medical access and quality care throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.  I applaud the many advocates, government colleagues and officials from both Highmark and UPMC for their efforts that led to this important agreement. However, with this 10-year deal in place, it is still imperative that we continue to seek a permanent agreement that assures patients access to the doctor, hospital and level of care they need and want.

Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant Program

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting grant applications for innovative, advanced fuel, and vehicle technology projects that will result in cleaner advanced alternative transportation within the commonwealth. DEP’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) Program offers funding for the purchase and use of alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles. 

Alternative FuelThe AFIG Program can assist school districts, municipal authorities, nonprofits, corporations, LLCs, and partnerships registered to do business in Pennsylvania in offsetting the costs of implementing alternative fuel using transportation projects. The AFIG Program is funded by annual gross receipts tax on utilities and this year a total of $6 million is available for grants.

Applications must be submitted online through the Electronic Single Application system at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us.  More information on the program can be found by visiting www.dep.state.pa.us or by clicking here. Please note that this year, the AFIG program will remain open continuously throughout 2019 with submission period end dates taking place by 4 p.m. on July 12 and December 13.

Did You Know…

Did you know the AFIG Fund was established under Act 166 of 1992 and is administered by DEP through the Energy Programs Office?

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program – Deadline Extended

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Deadline ExtendedLast week it was announced the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will be accepting applications for the 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program through Dec. 31. The original deadline to apply was June 30. 

If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail.  Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190.  As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older.  The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters.  Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.

Rebates will be distributed by the PA Department of Revenue beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Beware of Scam Calls Targeting Recipients of Property Tax & Rent Rebates

Worried woman holding credit cardThe Department of Revenue wants everyone to be cautious of a scam targeting seniors and people with disabilities who receive rebates through the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. The department received information last week that the scam consists of unsolicited telephone calls from a person claiming to work for the Department of Revenue. The caller starts the call by saying the recipient's application for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been approved. The caller then asks if the recipient would like the rebate directly deposited into a bank account, which prompts a request from the caller for the recipient's banking information. 

Here is some additional information on the program and tips to safeguard against this scam:

  • The Department of Revenue does not collect an applicant's banking information over the phone. Applicants are required to submit their bank account information on their application forms in order to receive their rebates through direct deposit.
  • The Department of Revenue does contact applicants via automated calls to confirm their information has been received and approved. If the department needs more information about an individual's application, it sends a letter through the mail.
  • Do not give out personal information over the phone to unsolicited callers, even if the caller claims to be from the Department of Revenue, the IRS or your bank.
  • Do not trust the number you see on your caller ID, even if it appears to be coming from the Department of Revenue or the IRS. Scam artists increasingly use a technique known as spoofing to trick caller ID.
  • Legitimate businesses and government agencies will not contact you to verify your account information, so ask for a call back number. Ask why your personal information is needed, how it will be used, how it will be protected, and what happens if you do not share it. Contact your bank or credit card company to confirm the call.

If you received one of these scam calls and provided your banking information or other personal information, immediately call your bank to report this potential fraud.

Gun Violence Reduction Initiative

End Gun ViolenceI want to remind all local governments that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has announced the availability of $1.5 million in state funds to support Gun Violence Reduction Initiatives. All counties, townships, boroughs, and cities in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply. The primary purpose of this initiative is to support the implementation of strategies that will result in reduced gun violence in local communities.

Applications are due in the PCCD’s Egrants system no later than Friday, July 12.  For assistance with the Egrants system, please contact the PCCD Egrants Help Desk at 717-787-5887 or RA-eGrantsSupport@pa.gov. Applicants with questions about the funding announcement can email ra-pccd-ocjsi@pa.gov through close of business on Wednesday, July 3. PCCD Staff will post responses to all questions received by close of business on Tuesday, July 9. To view the entire funding announcement, please click here or visit https://www.pccdegrants.pa.gov/Egrants/Public/OpenAnnouncements.aspx and then click on the “2019 Gun Violence Reduction Initiative” link.

Table Games & Combined Gaming Revenue Increases

Table GamesThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that revenue generated from table games in May increased 2.2 percent over May 2018.  Total revenue generated from table games in May was more than $76.5 million compared with $74.9 million generated last May. Total tax revenue from table games play during May was $12,310,469 with an average of 1,281 tables in daily operation statewide.

Combined slot machine and table games revenue for May of this year increased 2.6 percent compared to May 2018.

The state’s gaming industry employs about 17,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games.  For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.

Children EatingSummer Food Program

Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Summer Food Service Program which began in mid-June.  This is a federal program providing free meals and fun activities to kids 18 and under during the summer months when school is out of session. Children can receive breakfast and lunch during summer recess at many locations in Allegheny County. 

To learn more please call 412-460-FOOD or click here to search for locations near you.

Tutors Needed

OASIS An hour a week can change a child’s life!  Become an Oasis tutor and have the opportunity to give back, have fun and make a difference.  Oasis is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children in the Pittsburgh Public, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills School Districts in grades K-4 in reading and writing. 

Oasis has tutors in over 32 schools serving over 200 students yearly.   All training, materials and clearances are free.  Training sessions will be held on Tuesday, August 20 and Thursday, August 22 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Oasis Office located in the Duquesne Light Building, 411 Seventh Avenue, Suite 525 in downtown Pittsburgh. 

For more information on how to become an Oasis tutor, please call John D. Spehar, Director, Pittsburgh Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring Program at (412) 393-4768 or email him at jdspehar@oasisnet.org. Oasis is a program of Literacy Pittsburgh.

Fort Pitt BridgeFontana Fact

Last Wednesday, June 19, marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Fort Pitt Bridge. The cost of erecting the bridge in 1959 was just over $6.3 million.  The bridge spans over 1,200 feet and roughly 150,000 vehicles use the bridge daily.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment