Healthcare Price Transparency

From ChamberChoice

On June 24, 2019, President Trump signed an executive order calling for hospitals and other healthcare providers to publicly disclose pricing. This is part of a longrunning effort to increase transparency in the cost of healthcare and assist consumers in making educated decisions in how to use tax-preferred accounts, such as HSAs, to pay for health services.

Hospitals, insurers, and drug manufacturers criticized several aspects of the June 24 Executive Order, including the requirement for providers to publicly disclose negotiated rates with insurance companies. However, many features of the Order will not take effect until the Department of Health and Human Services issues regulations consistent with the Order. It is possible, if not probable, that these eventual regulations could face legal challenges given the far-reaching effects of the rules and the characterization of much of this data as proprietary or protected by providers.

A similar, earlier rule advanced by the Trump Administration required prescription drug manufacturers to list the price of medication in television ads. This rule was intended to assist consumers in making an educated decision on the cost of certain medications versus other potential alternatives, and it naturally attracted significant criticism from the pharmaceutical industry. Drugs with a list price under $35.00 per month would not have been affected by the rule; practically speaking, this exception would not have reached most of the drugs frequently advertised on television.

Drug manufacturers scored a win against this rule on July 8, 2019, when a federal judge blocked the rule from taking effect. The basis for this decision was that the Department of Health and Human Services (which issued the rule) lacked the jurisdiction to compel manufacturers to include pricing in television commercials. Note that this ruling does not address the merit of the rule and its effectiveness – those are separate issues from whether HHS is able to impose this requirement on manufacturers. Potentially, this rule could still take effect in the future with congressional action or if the Administration successfully appeals the July 8, 2019 ruling.

The goal of these transparency initiatives is to drive down healthcare costs through a combination of educating consumers so that they may make cost-saving decisions, forcing providers to disclose favorable network rates (potentially leading to lower rates overall), and bringing public attention to unconscionably high drug and provider costs that could “shame” these entities into reducing costs. Whether these initiatives will succeed, or are even allowed to take effect, is an open question.

This article gives a basic overview of recent regulation as in effect on the date of the article. Please be aware that the determination of the requirements and the application of these rules to each employer may differ due to a number of variables. Nothing in this newsletter should be construed as legal advice.

Article Highlights Economic Fallacies in Minimum Wage Proponents’ Push for Higher Pay

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Two weeks ago, a column in the online media outlet Capitolwire responded to ongoing efforts by some policymakers to enact a higher statewide minimum wage by sharing facts about the real impact these mandates have on the private sector and the number of people who would actually benefit from them.

The piece points out that the vast majority of workers statewide already make more than the state minimum of $7.25 an hour.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, only 1.2 percent of Pennsylvanians are making that hourly wage. In addition to more than doubling the minimum wage, the Wolf administration also wants to eliminate Pennsylvania’s $2.83 tipped wage, which would force employers at restaurants to pay their workers up to 500 times more than is currently required. “An important note: a significant portion of tipped employees oppose a change of the tipped rate since they claim it will result in lower tips from patrons and, consequently, lower take-home pay,” the article states.

Employers are generally paying their workers well above the statewide minimum, which shows the strength of the economy.  However, the article notes that government-forced increases don’t work well for the private sector because so many businesses operate on razor-thin profit margins, a reality often cited by the PA Chamber and others concerned with the unintended consequences of minimum wage hikes.  The article echoes another fact the PA Chamber often raises – that minimum wage increases reduce employment opportunities for young, lower-skilled workers seeking to gain workforce experience and learn the “soft skills” necessary to excel in their future careers.  “That’s something to seriously consider because while Pennsylvania’s overall unemployment rate has improved, those age 16 through 19 had an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent in 2018, with those age 20 through 24, having a rate of 7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” the article states.

The PA Chamber continues to be a leading voice against the proposal to increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $15.  On our website and, most recently, in a letter to the editor that appeared in the Carlisle Sentinel, we highlight various independent studies – including a recent report from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office that shows increasing the Commonwealth’s rate to $12 an hour could lead to the loss of 34,000 Pennsylvania jobs; and another Congressional Budget Office report showing that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would lead to an estimated 1.3 million jobs lost, with that number possibly being as high as 3.7 million.

Member News – August 14, 2019

  • The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center invites interested businesses in need of website development to connect with Bucknell students in the “Markets, Innovation, and Design 300” class in the Freeman College of Management. Each semester, these students make websites free of charge for local small businesses. These projects provide a hands-on learning experience for the students while bringing new ideas to these organizations. In early September, the students will be introduced to this assignment and divided into teams. Then the teams will have the liberty to choose with which businesses and organizations they would like to work. By early October, each student team will meet with their client to learn about the specific needs and goals of the organization and the purpose that the site should serve. Over the course of the semester, the students will then design and build the website with an online website software program, incorporating text and photographs provided by the organization. If your business or organization is in need of a website, or if it would benefit from a redesigned site, then please fill out this online form by Aug. 15 to ensure your organization is considered. Additional information is available on this form. 

 

  • Susquehanna Nuclear will test all sirens that are part of Susquehanna Steam Electric Station’s (SSES) Emergency Notification System this Thursday Aug. 15 at 11 a.m.  During the test, all sirens within a 10-mile radius of SSES will sound in a steady tone for approximately three minutes. After the sirens sound, local EAS radio and television stations will carry a message about the test. Emergency notification features on mobile devices also may be activated during this test.  No public action is required during this test. In addition to notifying the public of SSES events, county emergency management agencies also can use these sirens during other events including floods, chemical spills or severe weather.  In all cases, the sirens sounding is not a signal to evacuate, but rather a way to alert individuals to tune in to an EAS television or radio station for information and instructions. A list of EAS stations can be found in SSES’ Emergency Preparedness Guide, mailed annually to households and businesses in the Station’s 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone, or online.

 

  • Wild For Salmon will holds its annual Fishtival on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at its retail store at 521 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11) in Bloomsburg. The annual event, which welcomes back the fishermen from a successful fishing season in Alaska, features an assortment of delicious dishes with the signature sockeye salmon and other fish and seafood, as well as several other vendors. There is no cost to attend. 

 

  • The Penn State World Campus have hold a webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 28, from 8-9:30 p.m. specifically for women interested in the Penn State Online MBA program offered through the World Campus. Faculty Director Dr. Janet Duck and Managing Director Stacey Dorang Peelerwill share important information about the program, and will answer questions about program curriculum. They will review application requirements and explain the admissions process, while also sharing insight as to what you can expect as an online student. In addition, they will explain how this specific program can help women succeed and grow both professionally and personally. Current Penn State online MBA students will also share advice on how women interested in this program can fit it into an already busy schedule, and will give tips for balancing school, work, and family responsibilities. Register online.

 

  • Ryan Flannery Trio will perform their unique style of jazz music on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Weis Center Atrium to kick off the Weis Center’s 2019-20 season.

    Jazz musician Ryan Flannery.

    The family-friendly performance is free and tickets are not required. A native of Lewisburg and a recent graduate of the College of Charleston School of Music, guitarist/composer Ryan Flannery is steadily building his name as one of the most compelling and impressive young jazz artists in the South East. Flannery possesses a strong technique, a warm luminous tone, a natural sense of swing and distinctive chording. This trio includes Ron Nihoff on drums and McCarthy Fitch on bass.They will perform a memorable set of tunes including funk, ballads, and uptempo hard bop. For more information about the Weis Center for the Performing Arts and its current season, visit it online

 

  • The Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, will hold its annual luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 5, from 12-1:30 p.m. The event will take place at Monty’s on the campus of Bloomsburg University. This luncheon celebrates the investments made to community organizations through the work of the Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation. Local nonprofit organizations will be presented with 2019 grant awards during the event. There is no cost to attend, but reservations are required. Reserve your seat online or by emailing by Aug. 29. 

 

  • Camp Victory will host its annual Community Open House on Sunday, Sept. 8, from 12-3 p.m. This free afternoon of family fun includes its rock climbing wall, zip line and paddle boats on the pond as well as hot dogs, ice cream, drinks, an arts and crafts project, a moon bounce, wagon rides and live music. at 1 p.m., there will also be a ribbon cutting to celebrate the recent expansion of the Welcome Center. 

Downtown Berwick Enhancement Group Seeking Façade Projects

As part of the Building a Better Berwick enhancement plan, the Berwick: The Next Step Steering Committee is exploring applying for a state grant to help improve commercial properties in the downtown area. If approved, matching funds of up to $5,000 could be available for signs, repair and restoration of storefronts, and the cost of professional design services. Business and property owners in the downtown area are invited to submit project ideas as part of the grant application process.

Through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Keystone Communities Program, façade grants of up to $50,000 are available to municipalities and economic development organizations. Funding may be allocated to a business location for up to fifty percent (50%) of the total project not to exceed total reimbursement of $5,000 per storefront. Anyone who owns or leases commercial property in the designated downtown program area (Berwick’s C-3 and C-3A zoning districts) would be eligible.

Additional program details including a map of the program area are available at ColumbiaMontourChamber.com/facade.

The grant application to the state requires a demonstration of interest. Business and property owners should send basic project ideas with estimated costs to The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, Attn: Fred Gaffney, 238 Market Street, Bloomsburg, 17815 by Friday, Aug. 30. Contractor quotes, designs, etc. are not required for the initial application.

Based on sufficient interest, the grant application would likely be submitted in early 2020, with funds to be available later in the year. Projects would have to be completed within six months of local approval and funds would be disbursed following the submission of appropriate documentation demonstrating project completion. Any projects completed or started prior to local approval would not be eligible for reimbursement.

If the grant is approved, a local sub-group would review applications, determine eligibility, and approve the buildings to receive assistance. Projects will be evaluated on the basis of quality, design compatibility, and the level of visual and economic impact. If more applications are received than there is money available, grants would be awarded from available funds on a first-come, first-serve basis to eligible applicants.

Berwick: The Next Step, is an organized effort to enhance the greater Berwick area through a focus on the downtown commercial district. Members of the Steering Committee represent Berwick-area businesses and non-profit organizations. The Steering Committee coordinated the development of the Building a Better Berwick plan and is overseeing implementation of the recommendations in the plan.  

Welcome Cats in Bloom

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Cats in Bloom, to help us fulfill our mission.

Cats in Bloom is Bloomsburg’s new nonprofit cat café, and is scheduled to open its doors at 102 West Main St. in October. Founded by a group of animal-loving rescuers in 2019 with a docus on improving the welfar of stray, abused and abandoned cats, Cats in Bloom is a cat adoption platform and will work alongside local rescue shelters with the goal of helping more cats find their forever homes. For an entry free of just $5 per hour, guests can mix and mingle with Bloomsburg’s most eligible adoptees, all while sipping on a beverage, getting some work done, or taking a break from work. For more information on Cats in Bloom, visit its Facebook page or email