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Rep.

Matt Baker
SPRING 2010
ECRWSS POSTAL CUSTOMER

PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID HARRISBURG, PA PERMIT NO. 529

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Friday, June 11 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wellsboro Area High School

I am hosting the event with the Elder Services Work Group of the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health. Admission is free. For more information, contact my district offices.

The Health Care Debate Continues in Washington and Pennsylvania
Dominating the news in recent months is President Barack Obama’s proposed government-run health care system. Apparently, as more information is made public about the plan, more and more citizens are becoming outraged. In fact, in Massachusetts (an overwhelmingly Democratic state) the citizenry elected a Republican senator for the first time in more than three decades after he campaigned on strong opposition to the Obama health care plan. Clearly, more and more people across the country are expressing their concerns about a government-run health care plan, and what that would mean in terms of cost, access and quality of the health care they could receive. Massachusetts adopted a health care plan, which the Obama administration included as some of its main principles, and after severely straining the state’s budget and having insurance premiums increase by 8 percent to 12 percent in a single year, the people chose a new senator who would speak loud and clear in Washington, D.C., against a similar nationwide health care plan. In an effort to protect the rights of the citizens of Pennsylvania, I have introduced House Bill 2053, the “Health Care Freedom Act,” which would protect your right to access private medical care, and prohibit government from penalizing you for not purchasing bureaucrat-approved insurance. My legislation would work to preserve the patient-doctor relationship as well as individual rights to not take part in a government-run health care plan. However, my legislation would still allow individuals to participate in a universal health care plan if they so chose. House Bill 2053 provides choice, not mandates. By requiring individuals and employers to take part in a universal, single-payer health care system, we are harming patients and threatening our fragile economy. The Obama administration wants to establish a mandatory, government-run health care system that will take medical decisions out of the hands of doctors and patients and put them in the hands of bureaucrats. A federally mandated health care system would erode the quality of health care in America, and it would also place an enormous financial cost on a citizenry still coping with a recession. In fact, it is estimated that the federal health care plan currently being discussed in Washington, D.C., would cost the Commonwealth more than $1 billion. With Pennsylvania already facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit this year, the ramifications of such an additional financial burden would be staggering. On Jan. 27 at the Capitol in Harrisburg, I hosted a rally where we heard from other state legislators, a Pennsylvania congressman, a doctor and a woman who experienced a government-run health care system while living in the United Kingdom. All of these people have expressed a strong desire Rep. Matt Baker speaks at a rally to stay out of a universal promoting his Health Care Freedom federal health care plan Act legislation, which would preserve and to prevent the state of the patient-doctor relationship and Pennsylvania from enact- their health care decision-making process. ing similar mandates. With the introduction of House Bill 2053, Pennsylvania joins more than 35 other states that have either introduced or announced legislation to block state or federal health care mandates. The Health Care Freedom Act is just one of several health care measures developed by the House Republican Policy Committee’s Health Care Task Force, of which I am a member. In Pennsylvania, we are fortunate that 92 percent of the population has access to health insurance, through employerpaid benefits or government services such as Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP or adultBasic. However, we are continuing to look for ways to reach the other 8 percent and provide them with affordable, quality health care as well. For information on alternative health care reforms and solutions developed by the House Republican Policy Committee’s Health Care Task Force, go to healthcareforpafamilies.com.

Pennsylvania Health Care Reform Options
As chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, I think it is important to provide you with information on reforms that have been introduced in the House to help improve the health care system in Pennsylvania. The following proposals have been developed by the House Republican Policy Committee’s Health Care Task Force, of which I am also a member: PA BasicCare: Provides an affordable, low-cost insurance product. -Offers an affordable coverage option in the private insurance market for individuals and employers with no waiting list or deductible. Individual Tax Credits: Provides a $1,000 tax credit to individuals whose employer does not provide health insurance coverage if they purchase their own health insurance coverage. Employer Tax Credits: Provides tax credits to small businesses with 50 employees or less who provide health insurance coverage. -Encourages employers to provide health care for their employees -Prevents crowd-out, whereby employers stop providing health insurance to employees Disease Management Tax Credits: Provides per employee tax credit for employers with fewer than 50 employees who offer health care policies which include “disease management” protocols. -Encourages consumers to have a stake in their health care -Lowers costs by reducing hospital use Cost Transparency: Re-enacts the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council and requires them to publish health care costs. Requires medical charges and reimbursement rates for Medicaid, CHIP and adultBasic to be posted electronically. -Allows consumers to make informed decisions regarding their health care -Keeps the market competitive -Reigns in the cost of health care adultBasic Retool: Allows more Pennsylvanians access to the adultBasic program by establishing a sliding scale premium based on income and requires the Department to verify eligibility every six months. -Removes barriers for eligible adults to enroll in adultBasic -Helps to lower the cost of care by decreasing emergency room use Expansion of Federally Qualified Health Centers: Invests $25 million for the expansion of Federally Qualified Health Centers, hospital-based clinics etc. to increase access to primary and prenatal care. -Provides a medical and dental home -Increases access to primary health care -Helps to lower the cost of care by decreasing emergency room use Dental Provider Incentive: Improves dental access for Medical Assistance (MA) patients by establishing a contracted annual supplemental salary to recent dental graduates, who dedicate a certain portion of their practice to serving MA clients. -Brings dentists into communities with a need -Provides incentives to students who pursue higher education and training in dentistry -Establishes quality oral health care services across PA and improves health care to MA patients *Allied Health Professional Loan Forgiveness: Establishes the Physician Loan Retention Forgiveness Program whereby allied health professionals who complete training in the Commonwealth and agree to practice medicine in medically underserved areas will receive a portion of their school loan paid for by the Commonwealth. -Encourages allied health professionals who graduate to stay in the Commonwealth -Provides medical care in needed areas Health Information Technology: Proposes a public/private partnership to share costs of bringing technology online for the prevention of medical errors and greater efficiency. -Provides better quality health care services -Provides seamless access to medical records *Health Care Freedom Act: Preserves the freedoms of individuals to purchase private health care insurance and choose their own health care. *Affordable Health Insurance Act: Provides a tax credit for the purchase of more affordable Health Savings Account (HSA) eligible policies. -Targets the segments of the uninsured population who need and can afford insurance but choose not to purchase coverage. -Permits flexible rewards for healthy lifestyles, eliminates unnecessary state and local premium taxes and allows for more flexibility in plan designs. *Health Insurance Purchase from Out of State: Would allow the uninsured to access different carriers and more choices by allowing other states to sell their plans within the Commonwealth. This will enable Pennsylvania’s uninsured to customize and purchase the benefit package that best suits their needs. *Health Commissioner Study of Insurance: The Pennsylvania Health Commissioner, upon conducting a review, will report to the General Assembly on what changes to Pennsylvania law and regulation would be necessary in order to enable consumers in the Commonwealth to purchase outof-state health products, along with a proposed timeline for implementation of such changes. For more information on these and other reforms created through the House Republican Policy Committee’s Health Care Task Force, visit healthcareforpafamilies.com. *These legislative initiatives have been authored by Rep. Matt Baker, Republican chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

FO R M O R E I N F O R M AT I O N , VI SI T M E O N L I

Governor Delivers Annual Budget Address
On Feb. 9, Gov. Ed Rendell gave his annual budget address to a joint session of the House and Senate, at which time he proposed increasing government spending by $1.2 billion. With the economy continuing to lag and the governor continuing to request more spending, it looks like we are in for another extremely difficult year. As of the end of January, Pennsylvania was $374 million behind projections for revenue collections, and January marked the 21st consecutive month the state has failed to meet these revenue projections. Compounding our economic troubles are empty state savings accounts, like the Rainy Day Fund; federal stimulus funds that are set to expire at the end of next year; a looming spike in the employer contribution of the public pension system; and predictions the state will end the fiscal year with a significant budget gap. Now, even with all the financial problems our Commonwealth faces, the governor is requesting an increase in state spending by 4 percent. I believe it is fiscally irresponsible to further increase spending when we will end the current year with a deficit. Following is a breakdown of the priorities the governor outlined during his budget address: Spending: The governor has proposed a $1.2 billion increase in spending using $26.27 billion in state dollars and $2.76 billion in federal stimulus funds. It is important to note that $800 million of these federal funds have not yet been approved. Sales Tax Expansion: The governor is proposing a reduction of the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent, but would expand the tax to cover 74 items and services that are currently exempt. This expansion would not apply to food, clothing or prescription medication. However, it would include taxing home heating fuels, water and sewer services, death care services, personal hygiene products and nonprescription drugs. The extra revenue raised from this tax would be set aside in a reserve account called the Stimulus Transition Reserve Fund to help offset the future termination of stimulus funds. Basic Education: The governor is calling for 7.28 percent increase in basic education funding. Most school districts in Tioga and Bradford counties would potentially have a 2 percent to 4.5 percent increase in funding. I will continue my calls for a fairer distribution of education dollars in an effort to prevent further skyrocketing property taxes. Budget Cuts: The governor is calling for reductions to the budgets of the Department of Environmental Protection ($3.8 million cut), the Department of Health ($7 million cut), the Department of Agriculture ($5.4 million cut), the Department of Labor and Industry ($3.1 million) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ($1 million cut). Budget Increases: The governor would increase funding for basic education, county child welfare programs, mental retardation services, services to senior citizens, the state police, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Of course, the governor’s budget address only serves as a starting point in the budget negotiating process. I am looking forward to learning more about the fiscal forecast for Pennsylvania as we continue conducting budget hearings in the House, and working to produce the best budget possible for the state that keeps government spending under control and does not increase taxes on hard-working families.

Expansion of Gaming Industry Wrong Move for Pennsylvania
As you are probably aware, Pennsylvania recently adopted a law to allow table games at slots parlors. I voted against this expansion of gambling for several reasons, including moral grounds, the social ills that follow the gambling industry, the lack of needed reforms to the original gaming law, and the broken promise of using gaming revenue for property tax relief. Since casinos have been established in Pennsylvania, more than 1,200 people have voluntarily put themselves on a list asking casinos not to let them gamble in their establishments. This demonstrates the clear harm gambling addiction is having on many families across Pennsylvania. Although no studies have been done yet in Pennsylvania, we have seen a rise in other states of bankruptcy, suicides, crime and divorce following the introduction of gambling establishments. This is not something I think benefits our state, and I have been opposed to legalize gambling since 2004, when I voted against the original gambling law to legalize slot machines. However, it is also worth noting that when slots parlors were legalized in 2004, it was with the promise of property tax relief. Not only have we not seen meaningful property tax relief from slots, but this legislation does not allocate a dime of table games money to the Property Tax Relief Fund until the Rainy Day Fund reaches a threshold of $750 million. As our Rainy Day Fund has a zero balance today, it will likely be a decade or more until homeowners see any financial benefit from table games. Along with these disappointments, I was also concerned by the lack of important and necessary gaming reforms in the table games legislation. Some of the issues needing to be addressed include political contributions to public officials from gaming interests, allocation of the local share of revenue, licensing standards and the relationship between the Gaming Control Board and casino interests. We will see in time how much revenue this gaming expansion brings into the Commonwealth, but with surrounding states moving to legalize gaming, I do not think the results will be as favorable as the governor has presented. Time will tell.

N E AT R E P BA K E R . C O M

LIHEAP Deadline Extended
Pennsylvania’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) deadline has been extended until April 2. The LIHEAP program is administered by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and helps income-eligible households pay for heat during the winter months. The original closing date of the LIHEAP program was March 15, but circumstances have allowed the program to continue until April 2. The cash grant amounts have also increased by $100. Applications will be available at the Tioga County Assistance Office at 570724-4051 and the Bradford County Assistance Office at 1-800-542-3938. Applications are also available from local utility companies and community service agencies, such as Area Agencies on Aging or community action agencies. LIHEAP cash grant applications are available online at compass. state.pa.us. For complete eligibility requirements and additional information on LIHEAP, visit my Web site at www.RepBaker.com and click on “LIHEAP Home Heating Assistance.”

Report Poor Road Conditions to POTHOLE Hotline
Motorists are encouraged to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to report potholes and other problems with state roads. Based on the caller’s phone number, calls are directed to local PennDOT maintenance facilities where problems can receive the appropriate attention. Callers are encouraged to: • Report the county and municipality where the problem is located. • Report the state route number, which can be found on the small white-and-black signs posted along state roads, where the problem is located. • Describe familiar landmarks nearby in order to help PennDOT crews locate the problem. The toll-free maintenance hotline can be reached at 1-800-FIX-ROAD (1-800-349-7623). In addition to reporting potholes, motorists may also report missing highway signs, shoulder drop-offs, roadway washouts and other potential hazards. Once notified, PennDOT will actively work to address pothole and other roadway concerns when the weather permits.

On Feb. 4, Rep. Baker (second from left) testified before the House Judiciary Committee and Supreme Court Justice Max Bear on his legislation (House Bill 2046 and House Bill 418) to create a uniform and streamlined system for hearing and deciding family court and custody issues.

My district offices are here to help you. Services my staff and I provide include: Assistance with PennDOT paperwork (lost cards, changes, corrections, Assistance special registration plates, vanity plates, parking placards for disabled persons, applications for driver’s license and vehicle renewals) PACE and PACENET applications for seniors Property Tax and Rent Rebate applications Voter registration forms and absentee ballot applications Provide state tax forms State maps and state park information Copies of legislation Tours of the State Capitol Referrals to agencies to resolve state-related matters
If you need help with any of the above or with any other state-related matter, please do not hesitate to call.

District Office Services

Representative Matt Baker... Serving the 68th Legislative District
74 Main Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 Phone: (570) 724-1390 Fax: (570) 724-2168

DISTRICT OFFICES:

430 Canton Street, Suite 6, Troy, PA 16947 Phone: (570) 297-3045 Fax: (570) 297-5551

108 Ryan Office Building, P.O. Box 202068 Harrisburg, PA 17120-2068 Phone: (717) 772-5371 Fax: (717) 705-1835

HARRISBURG OFFICE:

Web: RepBaker.com

Email: mbaker@pahousegop.com