By Rep. Anita Kulik
As I write this article, the Legislature is in what should be the final week of budget negotiations. At this point, the House, Senate and administration are still working on an agreement to adopt a budget that hopefully will be completed on time. I will report more on this in upcoming editions of this paper.
I can say that the past few weeks of session have been extremely busy and productive. At this time only about three bills have reached the governor’s desk, but committees in the House and Senate have pushed out more than 100 different pieces of legislation, many of which have come to floor votes in both chambers.
Typical topics have been addressed such as education funding and transportation issues. Other issues have been addressed including maternal mortality, student-teacher compensation, milk testing, the state police complement, the WIC program, military members and professional licenses, and more. These important bills have been brought to the floors for votes.
It was hoped that the budget process would proceed in a more amicable bipartisan manner, but that has not been the case. One of the most contentious topics has been the funding for what is referred to as "non-preferred" funding for universities. These include Penn State, Temple, Lincoln, and the University of Pittsburgh.
These universities receive state funding that is used to help with in-state tuition discounts. Due to various issues that some of my colleagues have with these universities, funding has become a hot topic over the past several years.
Some very interesting bills have come to the floor, two of which deal with medical issues.
Medical debt can be a serious issue for so many residents across the Commonwealth. Even with good health insurance, many can find themselves facing overburdening out-of-pocket expenses, not reimbursed by their insurance.
We all see local fundraisers happening in our towns to help families with medical bills. Too often families must choose between paying these bills and paying for everyday expenses.
House Bill 78 seeks to take away medical debt faced by qualifying patients by creating the Medical Debt Relief Program.
This bill would have the Department of Health contract with a third-party organization to purchase medical debt from commercial debt collectors and healthcare entities to assess and assist with debt considered uncollectible.
Eligible patients would be those whose income is under 400% of the federal poverty level or whose debt is 5% of their income.
Another bill that came to vote on the House Floor was House Bill 1050. This Bill would establish the Health Insurance Preventive Services Coverage Act. The bill will require health insurance policies to provide coverage of preventive health care services without cost-sharing.
I was pleased to help host the America250PA Infrastructure and Improvements Committee at the historic Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie. As a member of the committee, I joined my colleagues from the House and Senate to hear from various organizations seeking funding for some very worthwhile projects.
The committee has been tasked with finding and funding projects that will help highlight Pennsylvania and its role in the building of our nation as we look forward to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States in 2026. The goal of the committee that I serve on is to help fund various infrastructure programs and other improvements in the commonwealth. Projects like this can provide a lasting legacy, as a tribute to our great nation and our great commonwealth.