Healthy PA is Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s idea for unconventional optional Medicaid expansion that would require a waiver from the Federal Government. As part of the process the Department of Public Welfare held a series of hearings around the Commonwealth, soliciting public comment via strictly limited three minute turns at the microphone. Written comments were accepted at the same time or separately through January 13, 2014. This video is the Power Point presentation that preceded public comments at each meeting.
I was able to get a total of nine minutes to comment by attending three of the eight hearings. At two of the hearings I spoke unscripted and at the Harrisburg hearing January 9, read a prepared script which I then left as a written submission.
My intention was and is to publish some observations on the hearings. I took notes but made no recording, especially since the presenter’s comments were being transcribed either by manual input or voice recognition and appeared on a large screen facing the audience in real time. DPW says they intend to publish a summary of the comments with responses prior to the waiver request submission, but I wanted the verbatim account in the transcripts, both to read comments of others and publish my own unscripted remarks as they were presented.
I called DPW to let them know what I wanted. They said I would have to go through Right to Know to get records they never suggested do not exist. So that is what I did in a simple straightforward request. Today, within the required period, I got an answer. My request is being delayed for up to 30 more days for the following reasons:
Your request is under legal review to determine whether a requested record is a “public record” for purposes of the RTKL
The extent or nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.
I simply cannot buy either of these excuses. How can they solicit public comment, which anyone had the right to record, obviously make a direct transcription of it, and then suggest it may not be part of the public record? Then too, why would it take longer than a week to give the records to anyone who properly requests them? Would the fact that they know me to be a detractor from Healthy PA have anything to do with their response?
Also I wonder why any of this should be necessary. Yes, I did have a right to record the event but chose to not do it. That said, how much trouble would it be to require all public meetings to be voice recorded (if not video also) and posted within hours online so anyone unable to attend in person could listen? It seems that would be a very easy but very significant improvement to our Sunshine Act and Right to Know laws, greatly improving transparency, as well as saving costly clerical efforts in situations like this.
While I’m waiting for bureaucratic determination involving legal experts, what follows is my prepared text I read at the final Healthy PA hearing in Harrisburg on January 9. Among what mostly amounted to various interest groups slithering up to the Federal money trough, or those objecting in favor of unaltered Medicaid expansion, or those complaining of any suggestions whatsoever of personal responsibility (as exist in Healthy PA), or even one arguably socialist Republican house member passionately pleading to not delay grabbing Federal money one more day, there was this:
Comment to PA DPW hearings on Healthy PA
Despite its good intentions Healthy PA is a misguided and dangerous additional step in the direction of fiscal insanity. First let’s think about the insidious lure of “Federal” money. Federal money IS our money. It comes from the pockets of Pennsylvanians or is imposed as a crushing debt on our children.
While Healthy PA is not exactly an expansion of the existing failed structure, we know there are better approaches to the entire Medicaid program. We can see the results of situations where people are empowered with ownership of accounts they control. We know how spending one’s own money can control overuse, encourage wise use, and reduce fraud. Healthy Indiana showed how money can be saved by giving it away-such is the power of ownership! Knowing this we should insist that any expansion only be considered after first changing how we run the existing system, using savings wrung from it, except in this “partnership” arrangement the rules only go in one direction, from the Federal Government top down.
We also know of suggestions to boost the number of and participation in free charity clinics, where doctors can operate outside the crush of burdensome regulations. We’ve passed Act 10, and HB1760 sits in our Health Committee and would not need a Medicaid waiver.
While any state would put itself at an extreme financial disadvantage by exiting the Medicaid program entirely, we also know that if every state did so we would all be better off. The added layer of Federal bureaucracy and administrative expense could be used to treat needy sick people.
Think then where we are today. Here we stand asking a powerful central authority to give us permission to do what should be the absolute right of free sovereign states and people under a constitution unique in the history of the world. This is America upside down. This is a great nation in decline. Healthy PA is further participation in that decline, and it’s time we stop allowing it to continue and expand.
Rather than making a stand for commonsense solutions we do understand, by becoming leaders for freedom, educating our citizens to what really would work to the extent they understand and demand it, we succumb to expediency, dare I say, political expediency, in an election year. It’s time we act like the sovereigns we are and end this bowing to a powerful central authority in Washington DC that is changing the fabric and face of America. Thinking beyond ourselves to generations yet to come we would set Healthy PA aside and choose a different path.
Submitted January 9, 2014
Todd Keefer, York County
Note: This article shared to WatchdogWire-Pennsylvania 1/27/14