Pa. ranks 45th in the nation in per-capita public health spending, report | Wednesday Morning Coffee

Capital-Star file

Good Wednesday Morning Fellow Seekers.

If there’s one running joke that we’re now officially quite tired of, it’s the sad reality that, when it comes to most measures of progress, Pennsylvania will predictably finish somewhere near the bottom of the list. And when it comes to matters of ignominy, Pennsylvania will finish somewhere near the top.

Such was the case last week with a study by the financial literacy site WalletHub that found the state ranked second in the nation for student debt.

Now, this morning, according to 2017 metrics compiled by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), comes the grim reality that Pennsylvania finished 45th in the nation in per-capita public health spending.

That list, which includes all 50 states and Washington D.C., finds the Keystone State spending $13 per-capita on public health. The nationwide average, as our sister site, the Nevada Current notes, is $36 per-capita.

Blue-ish Pennsylvania finishes ahead of neighboring state Ohio, which, along with deep-red Kansas and Mississippi, spends $12 per-capita, according to SHADAC data. The bottom rank of states are rounded out by Arizona ($9 per-capita); Nevada ($7 per-capita) and Missouri ($6 per-capita).

Image via Pittsburgh United

The trend lines also show that state spending has tailed off, since 2005, going from $29 in 2005 to $13 per-capita in 2017.

In case you’re wondering what the upper echelons of the states look like, here are the top five states, ranked by per-capita spending:

1. Washington D.C., $139 per-capita
2. Alaska, $114 per-capita (How about a shale dividend, eh?)
3. Hawaii, $112, per-capita
4. Idaho, $90, per-capita
5. New York, $87, per-capita

It’s often said that as much as they’re financial documents, budgets are also statements of priorities. It’s true that spending at the Pennsylvania Department of Health increased by 2.2 percent in fiscal 2019-20, going from $199 million to $203 million, according to Office of the Budget data.

And it’s also true that the state has made massive strides in fighting one of the great public health scourges of our time: Opioid and heroin abuse. The Medicaid expansion authorized under the Affordable Care Act also provides critical coverage to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who would not otherwise be be able to access it.

But if you go spelunking through the Health Department’s budget numbers, you find that spending on most programs was flat-funded, as was the case with such programs as STD screening and treatment; hemophilia and lupus; as well as sickle cell and renal dialysis programs. Ditto for state support to local health departments, where the most important fights are waged.

Office of the Budget, screen capture

Meanwhile, other programs that enable people to live healthy and productive lives, such as General Assistance, which is within the Department of Human Services, were eliminated entirely — and for no good reason. Others, such as paid sick leave, are under assault by Republicans who oppose mostly Democratic cities from exercising their own prerogatives.

As we’ll never tire of pointing out, the soon-to-vanish $200 cash payments to people living with disabilities; those coping with substance abuse disorder, and fleeing domestic violence, is still less than two nights’ worth of lawmakers’ lodging and meal vouchers when they’re in Harrisburg.

So it’s not as if we’re talking about an extravagance. This is life and death stuff.

It’s an embarrassment that the nation’s 5th most populous state falls at the bottom of so many ranking lists.

This one though?

It’s a tragedy.

Join us, won’t you?

Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso
 has the tale of a Philadelphia artist and filmmaker who’s using her work to tell the stories of migrant women who were held at the Berks County Detention Center.

Elizabeth Hardison looks at whether a new legal strategy will open the doors to the courthouse for some victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Sarah Anne Hughes explains how Pa. nonprofits are leveraging federal funds to get food stamps recipients into jobs.

Pennsylvania faces a nursing and home care worker staffing crisis in the coming years if policymakers don’t take steps to address it, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale warned during a joint news conference Tuesday with Health Secretary Rachel Levine.

On our Commentary PageExecutive Coach John Dame says the Legislature put employers in a bind with the feds by legalizing medical marijuana (and will make it even more complicated if they throw recreational cannabis into the mix) and really need to do something about that. Contributor William H. Schneider, of Cumberland County, fears what will happen if Donald Trump loses in 2020 and won’t go away.

U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, at an appearance at Robert Morris University in Allegheny County (WikiMedia Commons)

Elsewhere.
A Pittsburgh foundation that has given to anti-immigrant causes is attacking U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, for being a “radical who voted to give amnesty to MILLIONS of illegal aliens.” Yes, because if there are three words that so often appear in the same sentence, it’s “radical,” “Conor,” and “Lamb” (via Pittsburgh City Paper).
The Inquirer has a fascinating data visualization of how Philly-area donors are spending their money this Democratic primary season.
PennLive looks at legislation aiming to increase the number of roads and bridges named after Pennsylvania women.
A 51-year-old Allentown woman was an unintended victim of a drive-by shooting in the city on Tuesday. Her injuries, fortunately, were not life-threatening, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day.

Philadelphia spent $25k to figure out if some fired city cops’ offensive Facebook posts were free speech, WHYY-FM reports.
The Incline introduces you to a Pittsburgh immigrant who’s helping women at the border — and explains how you can help too.
Ten Dauphin County Prison inmates have died in custody over the last five years, four of them have been suicides, the PA Post reports.
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, raised $490K in Q1 of 2019, and has $810k on-hand, PoliticsPA reports.
With the White House’s support, some states are looking to cap their Medicaid rolls, Stateline.org reports.
Despite unhappiness on both the right and left, it looks like that two-year budget deal is still on track, Politico reports.
The 9/11 Victims Funding bill is heading to President Trump’s desk after clearing the Senate, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
10 a.m., Gwynedd Mercy University, Julia Ball Auditorium:
 House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee on things that old people like.
2 p.m., Lower Providence Township Building, Eagleville, Pa.: House Democratic Policy Committee on revitalizing Main Street.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to former Democratic House hopeful — and Capital-Star reader — Jill Linta, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Florence and the Machine to get your Wednesday morning rolling, it’s ‘You Got the Love.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
Baltimore 
got one back over Arizona on Tuesday night, beating the DBacks 7-2 on Tuesday night. The Os are still a lamentable 32-68 on the season, but hey, it’s a win.

And now you’re up to date.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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