Senator Fontana participated in a check presentation on October 9th at the Manchester Youth Development Center. The Bridge Educational Foundation and CSX Transportation donated $10,000 of scholarship money to the Training Wheels Daycare Center and St. Benedict the Moor School. Prior to the check presentation, the Senator took a few minutes to read a book to the students in attendance.
Behavior Needs to Change
Since 2012, service and maintenance workers at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospitals in Oakland and Shadyside have been trying to gain union representation with much resistance from the healthcare giant. In early October, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint charging UPMC with 19 violations of unfair labor practices, including harassment and intimidation, against workers involved in a SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania union-organizing campaign. The complaint also accuses UPMC of illegally firing four workers for union activities.
NLRB is a federal agency that referees union organizing drives. This is not the first time the agency has filed a complaint against the healthcare provider. Earlier this year, more than 80 alleged labor law violations were settled by UPMC. A hearing on the most recent charges is scheduled for December 16th before an administrative law judge.
Since UPMC announced it would not renew its contract with Highmark when it expires at the end of 2014, a nasty battle has put not only patients and consumers of these entities services in the middle of this mess, but also thousands of workers in the Pittsburgh region. Quite frankly, the shenanigans of UPMC have got to stop. We should be looking for reasons to draw people to the region and not driving individuals and families out because of UPMC’s bullying tactics.
I support workers' rights to organize and these companies have an obligation to honor these rights.
Historically, the ability to adapt to changes in our area’s economic and business climate has helped our city survive all of these years and fare better in the recent recession than most other large cities. We need to continue to exhibit these behaviors because after all, they have made Pittsburgh one of the best cities to live.
The Pittsburgh delegation in the General Assembly continues to look for ways to make these healthcare giants play fair. I have introduced and co-sponsored a number of bills to even the playing field for these entities. For example, my Senate Bill 143 (SB 143) would require non-profit organizations, like UPMC, that own real property to pay taxes on the assessed value of the land only (not building), with the first $200,000 of land value being exempt from taxation. The exemption would apply to all property owned by the organization, not per parcel. Many corporations and companies across our state are making record profits and the time is now for these organizations to start contributing to the fiscal challenges many of our neighborhoods are facing.
More recently, Representatives Christiana and Frankel introduced House Bill 1621 (HB 1621) and House Bill 1622 (HB 1622) that would impose additional requirements on hospitals operating as part of an integrated delivery network by making sure that a consolidation does not result in higher prices and less access for the people to the hospital and doctor of their choice. Furthermore, the package would establish the same contracting requirements on hospital-owned physician practice organizations operating as part of an integrated delivery network.
It is a shame that the Legislature has to get involved and play referee in the business matters of large “non-profit” corporations. But until these issues can get resolved and these providers start focusing on what’s best for their customers and the region, legislation will continue to be introduced to try to address the matter and look out for the constituents we represent.
Attorney General Warns of Health Insurance Scams
As millions of consumers begin seeking health care coverage in the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General wants to remind all Pennsylvanians to protect their personal information. Consumers have until December 15th to enroll for coverage beginning January 1st and during this open enrollment period, it is important to be aware of potential financial, medical, or insurance identity theft scams.
The Attorney General’s Office has provided the following tips to help consumers avoid handing over sensitive, personal information to potential scammers:
- Be wary of illusory government and company names claiming to help with enrollment, especially if they list a toll-free number other than that of the official help center. Enrollment is simply an option available to consumers, who will not be contacted by state or federal government in person or by phone, email or text.
- Guard your personal information. If you receive a call or email asking to verify personal information for any government health insurance plan or for a Medicare card, hang up the phone or ignore the email. You will not be contacted and Medicare is not part of the Marketplace.
- Do not be influenced by the mention of special rates or discounts, as none exist beyond the cuts set by the marketplace.
- Ignore any correspondence asking for a fee. There is no fee to submit an application to enroll in a plan within the Marketplace, and the individuals trained to assist consumers with the PPACA transition will not ask for money.
- Licensed insurance brokers and agents can seek compensation from insurers or consumers consistent with state law. You can check to see whether a broker or agent is licensed by going to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department website or by calling 1-877-881-6388.
If anyone believes they have been victimized by a rollout-related scam, please file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General by calling the Health Care Section’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-888-4877 or by visiting www.attorneygeneral.gov. The toll-free number for the Marketplace is 1-800-318-2596 and the website is www.healthcare.gov. It is also important to note that websites with the same name but that end with .com, .org and .net among others are not the legitimate site created by the federal government for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
PennDOT Public Meeting
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration will be hosting a public meeting on October 21st to discuss the Route 51/88 construction project. The project involves widening to provide four standard width travel lanes and left turning lanes on Route 51 and standard width through travel and turning lanes on the Route 88 approach to the intersection among other upgrades. The meeting is scheduled from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at St. Norbert’s Church, located at 2413 St. Norbert’s Street.
Inspecting Home Heating Oil Tanks
As the cold weather season is approaching, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is urging homeowners to save energy and money by inspecting outdoor home heating oil tanks for potential problems prior to refilling them. Leaking heating oil can cause indoor air problems and potentially contaminate groundwater and private drinking water wells. Additionally, spill cleanups can cost up to $50,000 and in some cases may not be covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Any homeowner who thinks their oil tank may have a problem should immediately contact their oil company for assistance.
DEP has provided the following tips for homeowners who possess indoor or outdoor home heating oil tanks. For more information and to download a fact sheet, please visit DEP's website or call their Division of Storage Tanks at 717-772-5599.
- For safety reasons, always assume the tank contains at least some oil
- Routinely inspect the exterior of the tank and all attached equipment
- Check for signs of rusting on the tank and its structural supports
- Examine the tank’s fill line and feed line to the furnace for leaks
- Never tip over or empty a tank on the ground
- Enlist a professional to perform maintenance or alterations to a heating oil tank system
- Recognize that wet spots or odors near the tank may signal a problem
Hiring Event for Veterans
RecruitMilitary is hosting the Pittsburgh Veteran Career Fair on October 24th at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event is sponsored by AMVETS and is open to all veterans and their spouses. At least 39 organizations will be in attendance to speak with attendees about available positions. If you’re interested in attending you may register for this free event online by visiting RecruitMilitary's registration page. RecruitMilitary is veteran-owned, veteran-operated and veteran-advised and is the top full-service military to civilian recruiting firm in the United States.
National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control is organizing the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 26th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Take-Back Day is a nationwide effort to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.
To view location sites in Allegheny County, or near to your home, please visit the Office of Diversion Control's website and enter your location. Locations can include local police departments, pharmacies and other locations. You may also inquire about drop off locations near you by calling 1-800-882-9539.
Did You Know…
Did you know that according to the Foundation for a Drug Free World, more than 15 million people in the United States abuse prescription drugs, more than the combined number who reported abusing cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants and heroin?
GBS CIDP Walk
The inaugural Walk & Roll for GBS/CIDP is scheduled for October 26th at South Park beginning at 10 a.m. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a disorder where the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of GBS include varying degrees of weakness or tingling in the legs and can spread to the arms and upper body. The symptoms can increase in intensity until the muscles cannot be used at all.
In addition to the South Park event, walks are also scheduled on October 26th for southeastern Pennsylvania and Atlanta. If you know anyone affected by this disorder or are interested in participating or donating to the walk, please visit www.gbs-cidpwalk.org. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about registering. Funds raised through this event will help the GBS/CIDP Foundation International achieve their vision that every person afflicted with GBS, CIDP or variants has convenient access to early and accurate diagnosis, affordable treatments and dependable support services. To learn more about GBS and CIDP, please visit the GBS/CIDP Foundation International website.
Brookline Business Feature
This week’s featured Brookline business is Chuong’s Cleaners, located at 946 Brookline Boulevard. Chuong’s, a family-owned business, has been open along the Boulevard for 16 years. They offer dry cleaning services, laundry shirts, tailoring, and certain household cleanings including comforters and bed sheets. Chuong’s is open for business 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday. For more information on Chuong’s capabilities, please call them at 412-531-5355. Please continue to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:
Brookline is open for business!
The enormous duck that has been floating on the Allegheny River was created by artist, Florentijn Hofman of the Netherlands and arrived in Pittsburgh on September 27th as part of the Rubber Duck Project. The duck was made locally after different versions have appeared in places like Hong Kong, Sydney, Sao Paulo and Amsterdam, but this is the first time the duck is appearing anywhere in the United States. The four-story tall by three story wide duck will remain in Pittsburgh through October 20th.
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