Open House
4/21/2017
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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol

Open House

We had a great turnout and excellent discussion of state issues at my first open house this week. I want to thank everyone who made time to come out. Hearing from you first-hand what your concerns about state government are and what I can do to help are very important when I make decisions in Harrisburg on how to cast votes and whether to support certain pieces of legislation.
 

Patient Care Directive
I participated in a Capitol press conference this week to promote legislation introduced by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) and Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) to better translate the health care wishes of patients with serious health conditions into medical orders.

“Through the loss of my parents, it became clear to me how important it is that an individual’s preferences for care be respected – not only for the benefit of the individual, but also for his or her loved ones,” Cutler said. “Knowing that those desires were carried out can provide peace for family members during a challenging and emotional time.”

The Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) Program is a voluntary process designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of their lives by turning patient goals and preferences for care into medical orders. The measure has the support of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

As a POLST form is completed only after a discussion of end-of-life choices between a patient or his or her legal decision maker and physician, the bill would enable patients to pre-plan some aspects of their care.

“With the passage of this bill, an individual’s wishes regarding treatment would be applicable in emergency medical services, health care facilities, home care and hospice settings. Advance directives often only identify a surrogate health care decision maker and lack specificity regarding a patient’s preferences should unforeseen medical conditions arise,” explained Pennsylvania Medical Society President Charles Cutler, MD, MACP.

POLST forms are currently available in the Commonwealth, but do not permit direct action as a medical order can.
 

Allowing Experimental Treatments for the Terminally Ill

 
Legislation that would permit eligible patients with a terminal illness to use investigational drugs, biological products and devices not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed the House on Tuesday.

The FDA approval process is often too slow to save or help patients suffering from terminal illness, 31 other states allow these patients the right to try medicines, products and devices.

House Bill 45 would permit a manufacturer to make these products available to eligible patients once the products successfully complete the first phase of clinical trials. Under the bill, physicians would not be held liable for recommending experimental products to their terminally ill patients, nor would the bill create a private cause of action against the manufacturers that make the drugs. While the bill does not require insurers to cover these products, they may do so at their own discretion.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.
 
 
House OKs Bill to Get Unemployment Centers Back Open
 
As a way to reopen unemployment centers and get people the unemployment compensation (UC) benefits they have earned in a timelier manner, the House passed Senate Bill 250 that would provide $15 million in funding to the Department of Labor and Industry.

The governor laid off about 450 employees and closed three UC centers late last year after state funding was halted due to complications arising from a failed computer system upgrade. As a result, residents seeking to submit claims or obtain information from the bureau have experienced lengthy delays or lack of response.

This funding is intended to be temporary to improve operations of the UC system. The legislation contains specific provisions the department must meet to regain more permanent funding.

After the bill moved back to the Senate on concurrence, it now heads to the governor’s desk.
 
 
Dismantling the Archaic Liquor System in PA
 
In further efforts to gradually dismantle the antiquated system Pennsylvania uses to sell alcohol, the House Liquor Control Committee approved two bills to further divest the wholesale system of wine and spirits.

House Bill 975 would allow retailers to negotiate prices and allow products to be delivered directly to retail markets, without having to go through state stores, while also permitting additional retailers to sell wine and allowing wine to be sold in grocery store aisles, with other products and at greater quantities.

House Bill 1075 would divest the whole system for both wine and spirits. Both measures now move to the full House for a vote.
 
 
State Grant Deadline is May 1 for PA College Students
 
The deadline for students and families to submit their applications for the 2017-18 Pennsylvania State Grant program is May 1. This deadline applies to all renewal applicants and first-time applicants who plan to enroll in colleges, universities or a college transfer program at two-year public or private colleges (except community colleges and designated Pennsylvania Open Admission institutions).

To apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2017-18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants can access the FAFSA online at PHEAA.org/FAFSA or fafsa.gov. Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.

Students and families with questions about the FAFSA or the State Grant Program can call 800-692-7392 for personal assistance.
 
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