State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Lawmakers raise concerns that agency mergers will hurt healthcare

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 7, 2017 10:21 PM

Wolf administration officials argue the merger will cut down on bureaucracy, not quality of care. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- One of the biggest changes proposed under Governor Tom Wolf's 2017-18 budget is consolidation of four major departments--Health, Aging, Drugs and Alcohol, and Human Services.

An all-day hearing Tuesday delved into what the future of the agency will look like--and wasn't without some conflict.

The beginning the Health and Human Service Department's hearing was punctuated by chants from the hallway outside.

A number of disabled members of the group ADAPT couldn't enter because there was no space for their wheelchairs.

Organizer German Parodi said considering the looming state and federal changes facing the healthcare industry, they felt it was vital to be inside.

"Things are changing fast, and they just are excluding people like myself who are the people being affected by these changes," he said.

The room was eventually rearranged to give the group access.

Meanwhile, House members sparred over whether the consolidation will improve care, or create chaos.

Some, like Montgomery County Democrat Mary Jo Daley, were concerned smaller departments will lose power under the new system.

"The aging department is a very small department compared to Human Services," she noted. "So people are concerned that issues relating to seniors are going to get lost.

Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas reiterated the administration's position.

"I think what [Pennsylvanians] really want is for us to provide the best level of care we can with the least amount of bureaucracy we can," he said. "I think that's what the consolidation does."

Some GOP members also expressed concerns the administration doesn't have a thorough plan to carry out the mergers.

Much of the hearing was overshadowed by the new GOP healthcare overhaul moving through the federal government--with lawmakers unsure how it would impact the state's responsibilities.

Committee leaders instructed members to base their questions on current policy.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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