Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Happy New Year!
  • Expansion of Income Eligibility for PACE Enrollees
  • Public Feedback on Legislative Redistricting
  • Bills Passed in 2021: Government Reform
  • New Law Prohibits Surprise Medical Billing
  • State Police Law Enforcement Training for Teens

Happy New Year!

The year 2021 was highlighted by the resolve of Pennsylvanians to move from pandemic to recovery and the renewed appreciation for the joys of everyday life.

In 2022, we will continue our efforts to protect public health and civil liberties, and to restore a stable economy and a semblance of normalcy. I wish you and your family a happy and prosperous new year.

Expansion of Income Eligibility for PACE Enrollees

Two bills signed into law will renew the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) program and the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET) cost-of-living moratorium, expand income eligibility and eliminate the PACENET premium clawback.

House Bill 291 extends the moratorium until December 31, 2023 to allow enrollees to maintain their PACE/PACENET benefits despite disqualifying increases in their overall income due to Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). The original moratorium was set to expire December 31, 2021.

House Bill 1260 expands the income eligibility limits for PACENET and removes the PACENET premium clawback, which will result in premium cost savings for some enrollees. The clawback will only apply to those individuals enrolled in the program’s Part D partner plans. This will reduce the premium obligation for about 28,000 individuals.

The law expands the PACENET income limits by $6,000:

  • Singles: from $27,500 to $33,500
  • Married: from $35,500 to $41,500

I cosponsored companion legislation in January – Senate Bills 323 and 668 – that passed unanimously in the upper chamber in June. These bills, like the companion bills I am sponsoring in the Senate, will preserve eligibly for many seniors and expand the programs to many more who are living on fixed incomes. I will continue to fight to protect these benefits that support our most vulnerable population.

The PACE program, funded with revenue from the Pennsylvania Lottery, began July 1, 1984 to provide comprehensive reimbursement coverage for prescription medications to qualified older Pennsylvanians. The program serves older Pennsylvanians 65 years of age and older, many of whom require multiple medications for several chronic conditions.

Learn more about the PACE/PACENET program along with other programs and services for older adults by visiting the Department of Aging’s website here.

Public Feedback on Legislative Redistricting

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission has scheduled public hearings during the first two weeks of January to gather feedback from Pennsylvania citizens regarding the preliminary plans for state Senate and House of Representatives legislative redistricting.

The hearings will be held in the Capitol North Office Building in Harrisburg, Hearing Room 1, and will use Zoom to allow virtual participation. The hearing will also be livestreamed.

To speak at a hearing (in person or virtual), the commission requires registration in advance:

To accommodate as many speakers as possible, the commission limits the remarks of each speaker to five minutes. The submission of written testimony prior to the hearing is requested but not required. Written testimony can be submitted on the commission’s public website portal.

Bills Passed in 2021: Government Reform

This fall, the Senate voted to move up Pennsylvania’s presidential primary election day from the fourth Tuesday of April to the third Tuesday of March to allow voters to have more say in the outcome of these essential elections.

In most presidential election cycles, the outcome of the presidential primary is largely decided before Pennsylvania voters have a chance to cast their vote. With the change, our presidential primary would be on the same day as Arizona, Florida and Illinois.

This year, the Senate also passed measures to bring about regulatory reform, election reform and probation reform.

You can find a complete rundown of key reform bills and more here.

New Law Prohibits Surprise Medical Billing

The federal No Surprises Act takes effect Jan. 1 protecting patients from surprise medical bills in situations where they have little to no control over who provides their care.

Signed into law in 2020, the law defines a surprise medical bill as an unexpected medical cost incurred by a patient when they’ve unknowingly obtained health care services by an out-of-network provider.

In cases of emergency or non-emergency services, the No Surprises Act protects patients from being billed for more than what they would have paid if those other providers were in-network.

Only services provided on or after January 1, 2022 will be covered under the protections of the new law. You can find out more about the law and what you should do if you receive a surprise bill here.

State Police Law Enforcement Training for Teens

The Pennsylvania State Police is taking applications until Jan. 7 for The Hill Impact Program, a 15-week program for children between the ages of 15 and 18.

The free program provides teens who are considering a career in law enforcement with insight on what it takes to be a state trooper. Students will have one-on-one interaction with troopers while learning about aspects of law enforcement, including the Pennsylvania crimes and vehicle codes, rules of criminal procedures, principles of law enforcement and physical fitness.

The Hill Impact Program will take place at the State Police Academy in Hershey, commonly known as The Hill. There is no charge to attend the program, which will begin in February 2022. Participants will meet once a week for two hours in the evening and one Saturday a month for three hours.

Class size is limited. Any teen who has a serious interest in attending is encouraged to contact Trooper Clint Long at ra-sprecruiter-acad@pa.gov or 717-497-4577.

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