Fontana Re-appointed to Leadership Post
Last week, I was honored to be re-appointed to the leadership position of Caucus Administrator for the Senate Democrats. It has been a privilege to serve the caucus in this post for the past two years and I look forward to continuing the work during the upcoming 2013-2014 legislative session. This position gives me an even stronger voice in Harrisburg and enables me to better serve the residents of the 42nd district and all Pennsylvanians. Our entire leadership team is focused on continuing the fight for Pennsylvania families and workers.
Pennsylvania and Health Insurance Exchanges – What’s Next for Our State?
The deadline for states that have yet to make a decision on whether to run their own health insurance exchanges as required by the federal Affordable Care Act was extended until December 14, 2012 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week. This extension was granted because many states with Republican governors put off the decision prior to the election in hopes that presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would win and repeal the law. Such is the case for Pennsylvania. With the election over, it is clear that the law will remain intact under the Obama Administration. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the overall concept of the plan, it is here to stay and it is time that Pennsylvania moves forward with implementing a health insurance exchange.
The online health-insurance exchanges are meant to be simplified health-insurance markets for individuals and small businesses and to make markets more competitive by allowing consumers to more easily compare insurance plans. Open enrollment for exchange plans are scheduled to start October 1, 2013, with coverage effective January 1, 2014.
States have three options when it comes to who will run their health insurance exchange: each state can run their own exchange, join in a partnership with the federal government or opt to have HHS run their state’s exchange completely. For the states that decide to not run their own exchange, they have until February 15th to decide whether to work with a partnership or cede their exchange entirely to Washington.
If a state does not establish their own exchange, the federal government will impose one on them. However, the failure to build an exchange by 2014 does not preclude Pennsylvania from building one later.
The partnership option allows states to handle consumer relations and oversight of health plans, while the federal government does the bulk of the work, including handling enrollment and figuring out how much taxpayer-funded help consumers may be entitled to. However, many individuals and hospitals feel that each state has their own insurance markets and knows what is best when it comes to their consumers; therefore, a state run exchange makes the most sense.
The Corbett Administration has claimed that they have delayed the development of the online exchange because too many questions about its cost and other operational details remain unanswered. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department was awarded a $33.8 federal grant earlier this year to help with the exchange planning. Officials have acknowledged that none of this federal money has been used thus far to establish an exchange.
The decisions do not end with the establishment of the insurance exchanges. Another big choice the governor has yet to decide on is if Pennsylvania will expand eligibility limits for Medicaid. This state-federal run program provides medical care for the poor, disabled and elderly. The federal government is charged with picking up the majority of the tab for our state to expand the eligibility, but if Pennsylvania decides to opt out, the state leaves federal money on the table. It is believed that an estimated 650,000 Pennsylvanians would get Medicaid coverage if the state decides to expand the eligibility.
More than 30 million uninsured Americans are expected to gain insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act with one million of those individuals living in Pennsylvania. The Administration has delayed the decision long enough and we should not tolerate the governor’s indecisiveness any longer. By investing in insurance coverage, people are better able to manage their health and avoid unnecessary and expensive trips to emergency rooms and the doctors. The time is now for our state to move forward so that everyone can have access to affordable and quality health care.
Offices Closed for Thanksgiving
All Senate offices will be closed on Thursday, November 22nd and Friday, November 23rd in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. My offices will re-open on Monday, November 26th as scheduled. I wish everyone a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!
Did You Know…
Did you know that turkey production in the United States has increased nearly 110 percent since 1970 and the United States is the top turkey consuming country in the world?
Yellow Dot Program
Pennsylvania has launched a program to assist citizens in the “golden hour” of emergency care following a traffic accident when they may not be able to communicate their needs themselves. The Yellow Dot program encourages motorists to store medical information in their glove compartments and simply place a yellow dot in the rear window of the vehicle. This symbol will alert first responders to check the glove compartment for motorists’ medical information to ensure the motorist receives the appropriate medical attention during the “golden,” or first hour, after an accident.
There are several ways for you to participate in the Yellow Dot program. You can pick up a Yellow Dot packet at the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, located at 441 Smithfield Street, downtown, or at the Emergency Medical Service Institute, located at 1002 Church Hill Road in Robinson Township. You may also request a Yellow Dot packet be mailed to you by providing your name and address on the participation form available on the PA Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) website.
The packet includes a personal information form, including the participant’s name, contact information, emergency contact information, medical history and medications, allergies and the participant’s physicians’ names. A photo, showing the participant’s head and shoulders, is then taped to the front of the completed information sheet. The packet will also include a yellow dot decal which should be placed in the participant’s vehicle’s rear windshield which will alert first responders that vital information can be found in the vehicle.
For more information on the program and to complete an online participation form, please visit, www.yellowdot.pa.gov.
Table Games Revenue Increases
The PA Gaming Control Board recently announced that revenue from table games at casinos across the Commonwealth was $55.3 million in October. This figure represents a 4.2% increase in gross revenue from table games compared with October 2011. Tax revenue generated from table games was $7.9 million during October. Total gross revenue from table games and slot machines for October was over $243.6 million and the combined tax revenue from table games and slot machines was over $109.6 million. To read the Gaming Control Board’s monthly report, please visit www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Older Adults Serving as Tutors
OASIS Pittsburgh will be hosting free training sessions for adults aged 50 and over who are interested in serving as tutors for students enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools. These training sessions will be held on December 4th and December 13th from 10:30 am. – 3:30 p.m. at Macy’s Department Store in downtown Pittsburgh. All materials, books, and supplies will be provided by OASIS.
OASIS is a non-profit organization, founded in 1982, that is active in 40 cities across the country in promoting successful aging by providing opportunities for adults aged 50 and over to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives. Their Intergenerational Tutoring Program trains older adults on tutoring children and provides older adults the chance to help students learn.
For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please call John D. Spehar, Pittsburgh OASIS Tutoring Coordinator at 412-232-2021 or visit the OASIS Tutoring page on their website.
Heidelberg First Night of Lights
The Borough of Heidelberg is hosting its 3rd Annual First Night of Lights on December 1st from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Ellsworth Avenue Playground, located at the corner of Ellsworth Avenue and 3rd Street. Activities planned include the lighting of the Borough Christmas Tree at Ellsworth Park, a visit from Santa Claus, an ice carving show, live music, bon fires, hay rides throughout the borough, kettle corn, free hot chocolate and fun for all. The borough will also be coordinating a toy drive in partnership with the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. Attendees are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the event. For more information, please visit the borough's website.
Children’s Museum Sweater Drive
The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh launched their 13th Annual Mister Rogers’ Sweater Drive last week, celebrating the annual drive with an appearance by Mr. McFeely from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The Children’s Museum collects gently used adult and child-sized sweaters and donates them to families in need throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Sweater donations are encouraged through December 16th so they can be distributed before the holidays. Anyone wishing to donate sweaters can take them to the receptacles in the lobby at the Children’s Museum on the North Side. For more information about the Mister Rogers’ Sweater Drive, please contact the Museum at 412-322-5058, ext. 231 or visit www.pittsburghkids.org.
Holiday Gifts for Children in Need
If you are able and interested in helping a child receive a meaningful gift this holiday season, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Holiday Project provides that opportunity. Launched in the late 1960’s, the DHS Holiday Project provides donated gifts to children who receive child welfare services through the DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families, the County agency charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect.
If interested in participating, you can visit the DHS Holiday Project website to learn more about the program. This site explains how individuals and groups can participate in the program, provides a listing of the most popular gifts and toys for boys and girls of all ages, and a complete list of conveniently located gift drop off locations throughout Allegheny County and the days and times those locations are open.
For more information on the project, please call the Event and Donations Team at 412-350-3428 or email them at EventandDonationsTeam@AlleghenyCounty.us.
Brookline Native Launches First National TV Show
Congratulations to Michael DeFilippo on the debut of his first nationally produced television program, which will air on Thanksgiving evening on the Ovation channel. Michael, who owns a production company in Los Angeles, is the producer for Opening Night: An American Panto. The show will take the audience behind the scenes of a stage show and focus on how the show is put together, rehearsed and lighted. Michael is a 1996 graduate of Seton-La Salle High School. The Ovation channel is carried by Comcast, Verizon FiOS, DirecTV and Dish Network. To read more about Michael and his project, click here to read a recent story that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sto-Rox Heading to Heinz Field
Sto-Rox advanced to the Class A Championship Game after defeating North Catholic 34-20 in a semifinal game on Friday night. Quarterback Lenny Williams continued his stellar season, accounting for four touchdowns in the win. Williams rushed for two scores and threw touchdown passes to Wendall Miller and Ben Shackelford. Brendan Blair also rushed for a score.
Sto-Rox, with only one loss on the season, will face unbeaten Clairton in the Championship Game for the second year in a row. The game will be played on Friday, November 23rd at 11 a.m. at Heinz Field. Best of luck to Sto-Rox!
The United Way celebrated its 125th anniversary earlier this year, continuing its mission of improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good. Founded in Denver, religious leaders formed the Charity Organizations Society, the first "United Way" organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fund-raising campaign for 22 agencies. Today, the United Way is the leadership and support organization for the network of nearly 1,800 community-based United Ways in 40 countries and territories, advancing the common good by focusing on improving education, helping people achieve financial stability, and promoting healthy lives, and by mobilizing millions of people to give, advocate, and volunteer to improve the conditions in which they live. If you’re in need of assistance, or wish to contribute to the United Way, please visit the United Way's Pittsburgh chapter website.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216