Pa. House panel approves bill raising income limits for prescription drugs program | Friday Coffee

The bipartisan legislation sponsored by Reps. Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton, and Wendi Thomas, R-Bucks, is headed for the House floor.

October 1, 2021 7:12 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Turn on the TV, and there they are, advertisements for prescription medication featuring sunny pop music and improbably happy people enjoying the benefits of chemical concoctions with a catalogue of side effects longer than the cast list for one of the less distinguished installments of the endless ‘Fast and the Furious‘ franchise.

And little wonder. About half of all American adults say they’re taking at least one prescription medication, and about a quarter say they’re taking four or more prescriptions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Put it all together, and faster than you can sing a rousing chorus of O-O-O-Ozempic,’ you’re talking about some real money.

Enter the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, which gave its blessing earlier this week to that rarest of all beasts: A bipartisan bill that would, if approved, raise the income limits for the state’s PACENet prescription drug program.

The legislation sponsored by Reps. Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton, and Wendi Thomas, R-Bucks, would boost the income limits on the entitlement program by $6,000, Samuelson said in a statement his office released earlier this week.

“This bipartisan legislation expands access to prescription medications for our seniors by building upon the proven PACE/PACENet program and expanding eligibility,” Samuelson said.

(Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

If it’s eventually signed into law, the bill would boost enrollment in the program by about 20,000, and raise the income limits to $33,500 for a single person and to $41,500 for a married couple.

The full House could vote on the bill as soon as next week, said Jason Gottesman, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, whose office controls the lower chamber’s voting calendar.

According to the Kaiser Family research, nearly 8 in 10 American adults say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable. But the question of affordability depends on, as is the case with most things in life, on how you’re situated.

About three-quarters of American adults say they can afford their prescriptions. But concerns about affordability rise among those who are taking four or more medications, with about a third of Americans (35 percent) saying they have trouble affording their medications.

That’s particularly true among people who spend $100 or more a month on medication, and those with an annual household income of less than $40,000, the Kaiser Family research indicated.

(Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

Taken in that context, expanding the income limits for the PACENet program make sense. If approved, the Samuelson/Thomas bill also would provide incentives for PACENet enrollees to sign up for federal Medicare Part D coverageSamuelson’s office said in its statement. Premiums for the federal program, which are normally paid by beneficiaries, would be covered by the state.

The state last raised PACENet income limits in 2018, marking the first such expansion of eligibility in 15 years. Samuelson also authored that legislation, teaming with Rep. Frank Farry, another Bucks County Republican.

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From voting rights and education spending to debates over abortion rights and gun violence reduction, Pennsylvania lawmakers will be talking about, and voting on, issues that will impact voters across the commonwealth this fall. Help us bring you the news you need so that you can make informed decisions on the issues that affect your lives.

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Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
The Wolf administration has responded to a nationwide shortage of bus drivers by allowing ‘limited’ reimbursements for families to get their kids to school, Marley Parish reports.

During remarks on the Capitol steps on Thursday, the first transgender woman to run for the Legislature had a message for state lawmakers: “Trans youth are welcome in Pennsylvania, Trans people belong in Pennsylvania,” Janelle Crossley, one of the state’s most prominent transgender rights advocates, said. Cassie Miller has the full story.

Advocates and elected officials in Pittsburgh are calling on healthcare giant UPMC to raise wages and improve community outreach, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 4,892 new cases  of COVID-19 on Thursday, up from Wednesday’s tally of 4,570 new cases,  bringing the statewide total to nearly than 1.43 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation extending the suspension of hundreds of state regulations that govern such issues as how unemployment compensation hearings are held and who is allowed to drive state vehicles, Stephen Caruso reports.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says he’s ‘heartbroken and outraged that we’ve lost more than 400 Philadelphians to preventable violence,’ this year, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page, youth advocates for foster children say Congress must reauthorize a program that provides critical resources to young people in foster care. A University of Colorado at Boulder expert explains why charter schools in Pa. and elsewhere in the nation aren’t as ‘public’ as they claim they are. And Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti calls on Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda to help build Pennsylvania back better.

En la Estrella-Capitalla administración de Wolf anuncia $655 milliones en ayuda a proveedores del cuidado infantil. Y el mes de la Herencia Hispana, por los números.

Yetta Timothy, a 27-year veteran certified nursing assistant, speaks on the Capitol steps at a rally to increase nursing home staffing on March 26, 2021. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Nursing home workers aren’t getting vaccinated – the Inquirer looks at the impact.

Senior Biden administration officials toured a Pittsburgh robotics firm on Thursday to tout the nation’s tech industry, the Post-Gazette reports.

A PAC is spending big on school board candidates who favor in-person instructionPennLive reports.

Thursday debate for county executive in Lehigh County focused on pandemic response and affordable housing – among other issues, the Morning Call reports.

Three legislative districts in Lancaster County have some of the least vaccinated people in the stateLancasterOnline reports.

Some local restaurants in Luzerne County are shutting down indoor dining again, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Philadelphia’s plastic bag ban is in action, with enforcement to comeWHYY-FM reports.

WITF-FM takes a look at the toll the pandemic is taking on local ambulance crews.

Boy Scout council in Erie will pay $700,000 to settle child sex abuse claims, GoErie reports (paywall).

As they wait for riders to return, transit agencies are leasing real estate to raise reports.

The U.S House put off a vote on the infrastructure bill as talks hit a last-minute snag. They’ll try again today, Roll Call reports.

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What Goes On
9 a.m. & 11:15 a.m., Shippensburg University: Center for Rural Pennsylvania, public hearing on solar development, and a regular meeting.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
Who says there’s no second — or third, or fourth — acts in rock music? Billy Idol is back with some new music, and it’s pretty outstanding. Here’s the decidedly noir-ish ‘Bitter Taste,’ to get your weekend rolling.

Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
It’s the weekend. The Guardian runs down the 10 things to look for in the Premier League over the next 48 hours, including Manchester City’s trip to Anfield, where they’ll face Liverpool in a Clash of the Titans.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.