HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania House Republican members called on Gov. Tom Wolf to sign House Bill 59
, the comprehensive Human Services Code bill that would help provide critical treatment to opioid abusers; prevent fraud, waste and abuse within the welfare system; pave a pathway to prosperity for those who can work; and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through reforms.
Under Wolf, taxpayer spending for the Department of Human Services (DHS) now equals 38 percent of the overall state budget, and the Medicaid component itself accounts for almost 21.5 percent of the state budget.
|Speaker of the House Mike Turzai signs House Bill 59,
the comprehensive Human Services Code bill that would
help provide critical treatment to opioid abusers;
prevent fraud, waste and abuse within the welfare system;
pave a pathway to prosperity for those who can work;
and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through reforms.
Despite a budget crisis that sees families struggling to keep up with the governor’s demands for more of their hard-earned dollars, Wolf has rapidly expanded entitlement rolls to record levels and now vows to veto this reform measure.
“We are calling on Gov. Wolf to set aside politics and sign commonsense welfare reforms into law,” said Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin). “Welfare is a huge, ever-growing cost driver in our state budget. These reforms can help to curb those costs, and should be a no-brainer, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on.”
House Bill 59 would control costs while providing access to those who truly need assistance. The bill would help fight the ongoing opioid crisis by requiring the Department of Human Services to submit a federal waiver so federal dollars can be used for opioid abusers’ treatment after 15 days of inpatient treatment, which is currently prohibited.
The bill also extends provider submissions for child welfare placement costs, preserving nearly $31 million in federal Title IV-E placement maintenance funds. A veto of this bill by the governor would cause the Commonwealth to lose those funds.
“Together, we have a responsibility to provide for the most vulnerable and needy among us,” said Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams). “We can compassionately take care of those in need while also ensuring the source of that care – taxpayer dollars – is used wisely, efficiently and effectively.”
The bill would also require DHS to seek cost-saving waivers from the federal government prior to seeking additional funding from taxpayers.
“The Department of Human Services (DHS) routinely overspends its budget and needlessly looks to the General Assembly to bail it out,” said Moul. “We shouldn’t be looking to take more from Pennsylvania families when other resources already exist.”
The bill also requires DHS to contract out evaluations of programs that will identify and prevent fraud, waste and abuse.
“Every taxpayer dollar spent frivolously or fraudulently is a dollar that could have been spent on a Pennsylvanian truly in need,” Benninghoff said. “Pennsylvanians are generous people, who are glad to support their neighbors facing difficulty, but they rightfully expect their hard-earned money to be spent efficiently and fairly.”
House Bill 59 also seeks to pave a path to prosperity for able-bodied Pennsylvanians. In March 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a letter to state governors indicating it will begin to approve provisions related to “training, employment and independence” restrictions for Medicaid. Reasonable work requirements are intended to encourage self-sufficiency and ultimately lead to people being removed from the welfare rolls. The language in House Bill 59 directs the administration to pursue a waiver.
“Entitlement programs too often trap able-bodied people. We want to break the chains of dependence and get as many able-bodied people into good-paying jobs as possible,” Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said. “Why would anyone oppose able people working?”
Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) agreed. “The reforms included in House Bill 59 would have a big impact on moving our impoverished citizens into the workforce. We need to be moving mothers and fathers into positions where they can be productive members of society, rather than folks trapped in the welfare system.”
House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said the bill is also an important step toward addressing the state’s budget problems in the long term. “It’s time to break the dysfunctional budget cycle that we’ve been stuck in the last few years. As there is always a significant disparity between spending and revenue plans, we must have serious conversations about cost drivers that cause this,” he said. “By considering each program that receives funding and making sensible changes, we can improve our ability to meet the state’s needs for those who are needy without delay and uncertainty.”
As he signed the bill on the House floor today, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said, “These reforms are needed. They bring integrity into our programs and they are responsible. These reforms are a perfect example of ‘government that works.’”
Representative Mike Turzai
Pennsylvania House of Representatives