The Department of Human Services today announced that extra financial help will be provided to vulnerable Pennsylvanians who received assistance from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, during the 2015-2016 heating season.
“These supplemental funds will help older Pennsylvanians, individuals with a disability, families with children, and crisis grant recipients to pay their remaining heating bills and even help with their heat during the next winter months,” said Secretary Ted Dallas. “DHS would like to thank the utility companies, LIHEAP Advisory Council, and our dedicated LIHEAP staff for another successful season.”
LIHEAP assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs, bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization, and energy-related home repairs. In the 2015-16 heating seasons, crisis grants were approved for more than 114,000 households with an average crisis benefit of $322. LIHEAP was also approved to more than 240,000 older Pennsylvanians, individuals with a disability, and families with children. These households will now also receive the $65 supplemental cash grant paid directly to their utility or deliverable fuel company to credit their accounts.
This week, DHS is sending letters to the consumers that are eligible for the $65 supplemental grant payment. The payment will be issued in early July.
The 2016-17 LIHEAP season is scheduled to begin November 1, 2016.
For more information about the LIHEAP program, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
HHS Oncology Care Model attracts almost twice the expected number of physician group practices
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced that it has selected nearly 200 physician group practices and 17 health insurance companies to participate in a care delivery model that supports and encourages higher quality and more coordinated cancer care. The Medicare arm of the Oncology Care Model includes more than 3,200 oncologists and will cover approximately 155,000 Medicare beneficiaries nationwide. The Oncology Care Model begins on July 1, 2016 and runs through June 30, 2021.
Cancer is one of the most common and devastating diseases in the United States: more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and cancer will kill an estimated 600,000 Americans in 2016. According to the National Institutes of Health, based on growth and the aging of the U.S. population, medical expenditures for cancer in the year 2020 are projected to reach at least $158 billion (in 2010 dollars) – an increase of 27 percent over 2010. A significant proportion of those diagnosed are over 65 years old and Medicare beneficiaries.“The Oncology Care Model encourages greater collaboration and information sharing so that cancer patients get the care they need,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “This patient-centered care model furthers the goal of the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot to improve coordination, care, and outcomes while spending dollars more wisely.”
The Oncology Care Model encourages practices to improve care and lower costs through episodic and performance-based payments that reward high-quality patient care. The Oncology Care Model is one of the first CMS physician-led specialty care models and builds on lessons learned from other innovative programs and private-sector models. As part of this model, physician practices may receive performance-based payments for episodes of care surrounding chemotherapy administration to Medicare patients with cancer, as well as a monthly care management payment for each beneficiary. The two-sided risk track of this model will be an Advanced Alternative Payment Model under the newly proposed Quality Payment Program, implementing provisions from the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
Practices participating in the five-year Oncology Care Model will provide treatment following nationally recognized clinical guidelines for beneficiaries undergoing chemotherapy, with an emphasis on person-centered care. They will provide enhanced services to beneficiaries who are in the Oncology Care Model to help them receive timely, coordinated treatment. These services may include:
As part of the Administration’s “better care, smarter spending, healthier people” approach to improving health delivery, the Oncology Care Model is one of many innovative payment and care delivery models developed by the CMS Innovation Center and advanced by the Affordable Care Act. The Innovation Center is committed to transforming the Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs and is expected to help deliver better care for individuals, better health for populations, and lower growth in expenditures for Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries.
For more information about the model including the names of those practices and payers participating, visit: http://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/Oncology-Care/.
Wolf Administration Joins Senator Vance to Support Bill Suspending Medicaid for Individuals Entering Corrections System
Today, Wolf Administration officials joined Sen. Pat Vance (R-Cumberland/York), county commissioners, stakeholders, and advocates to support Senate Bill 1279 at the Cumberland County Prison. The bill proposes the suspension of -- as opposed to termination of -- Medical Assistance benefits, also known as Medicaid, for individuals entering the corrections system.
“For some time, I have been working to suspend rather than terminate Medical Assistance benefits for those who are incarcerated,” said Senator Vance. “Not only will this allow for a seamless transition for those with mental illness and drug addiction when they are released, but it will save money for county governments and taxpayers. I’m hopeful that the final 2016-17 budget will include this important change.”
Currently, Pennsylvania is one of 19 states in which Medicaid benefits are terminated upon entry into the criminal justice system. When an individual is released, they must reapply and reenroll for Medicaid. In addition to making it harder for the individual to obtain needed health care, termination creates an administrative burden, requiring the state to process a new application and check the person’s eligibility again.
Senate Bill 1279 proposes a temporary suspension, for a period of no more than two years, of an individual’s Medicaid. This allows people who are incarcerated to quickly reactivate their coverage upon release. Currently, 16 states follow a time-limited suspension policy.
“The Department of Human Services is committed to providing access to high-quality services and ensuring that people leaving the corrections system have access to the necessary health care coverage,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “Access to health care has proven essential to helping people avoid returning to jail or prison after release. This bill will enable the department to deliver benefits the day of release - resulting in maintenance of treatment, better health outcomes, and more successful re-entry into the community.”
There is currently a treatment gap for vulnerable individuals with mental illness and drug addiction leaving the corrections system. While they receive the medical help they need while incarcerated, a gap often exists upon release until a Medical Assistance application can be processed. This all too often leads to behavior that results in further incarceration, and the cycle of recidivism continues. As Pennsylvania continues to battle the opioid epidemic, providing immediate access to treatment is another way the commonwealth can combat this issue.
“This legislation is vitally important for the state corrections system and is a game changer for counties, which have large numbers of individuals entering and leaving prison every day and often don’t know until the last minute when people will be released,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “These are highly vulnerable populations and many need ongoing treatment for substance abuse disorder or mental illness. The passage of this legislation would mean thousands of imprisoned individuals at the state and county level would be able to resume their benefits immediately upon release.”
In addition to the efforts supported through this bill, DHS is ensuring individuals who were not enrolled in Medicaid prior to incarceration have immediate access to benefits, if eligible. DHS will shorten applications, provide access to electronic enrollment options in county jails and state correctional institutes, and will expedite applications for individuals released from the corrections system, currently occurring within five days.
“We’re thinking through benefit acquisition for everyone. This will put Pennsylvania ahead of the curve in terms of progressive Medicaid policies,” said Secretary Dallas.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has updated language embedded in official documents to remove words that are outdated and offensive to people with disabilities. Terms like “mental retardation” have been changed to “intellectual disability” and “normalization” to “integration.”
The Wolf Administration has modernized language in 24 chapters of licensing regulations governing: intellectual disability and mental health programs; county programs; and the regulations for adult training centers, vocational facilities, state operated facilities, personal care homes, assisted living residences, and child residential facilities.
“This is a long overdue change that promotes respect and opportunities for individuals with an intellectual disability,” DHS Secretary Ted Dallas said. “Using the correct, modern terms reflects people’s strengths and abilities. Governor Wolf and I realize the importance of affording persons with intellectual disabilities the same opportunities for professional and personal fulfillment that everyone else has.”
This year Governor Wolf also signed Executive Order 2016-03 – Establishing Employment First Policy and Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability. He also signed into law the Pennsylvania Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (PA ABLE) that enables the creation of tax-exempt savings accounts specifically for people with qualified disabilities and their families.
“This change is a long time coming, but I’m glad that now we have adopted language that expresses dignity and regard for people,” Secretary Dallas said.
Pennsylvania Simplifies Benefit Application Process for Older Adults and Individuals with a Disability
The Department of Human Services continues to improve customer service
The Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced a significant improvement in customer service and another success in the Wolf Administration’s push for “government that works” in Pennsylvania.
The department is now implementing a new simplified process called the Elderly/Disabled Simplified Application Process (ESAP) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as the food stamp program. The federally approved process simplifies the SNAP application and recertification process for older Pennsylvanians and individuals with a disability who have no earned income.
“The new simplified process will help ensure that some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians have easier access to the SNAP benefits that are critical to their health and well-being,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “Through enhanced data matches and other steps, the ESAP process helps these Pennsylvanians overcome barriers such as limited mobility and lack of access to the internet and helps realize the governor’s vision of a government that works.”
ESAP is available to households that meet all of the following criteria:
“This initiative, part of Governor Wolf’s larger forthcoming statewide hunger plan, will increase SNAP participation by reducing barriers to participation and providing people with easier access to nutrition,” said Dallas.
“Hunger among seniors is a growing concern, and SNAP is a critical piece of the social safety net enabling older Pennsylvanians to access healthy and nutritious foods,” said Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne. “DHS’ successful pursuit of a streamlined and simplified SNAP eligibility process will benefit seniors throughout the commonwealth, and highlights the positive results that occur when agencies work together to provide people with easier access to services and programs that have the capacity to improve their quality of life.”
On September 29, 2015, Governor Wolf brought together leaders from non-profit anti-hunger organizations, the food industry, and government to discuss food security in Pennsylvania and signed Executive Order 2015-12, which created the Governor’s Food Security Partnership.
To apply for SNAP using the ESAP form, visit www.compass.state.pa.us. For more information on SNAP benefits visit www.dhs.pa.gov.