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DPW to business community: Let's work together

By - Last modified: June 20, 2013 at 9:37 AM
Heather Stauffer
Heather Stauffer

This week's print edition will feature a Q&A with Bev Mackereth, the former York state representative who is now in the process of being confirmed as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

Here's just one question and her answer, to whet your reading appetite.

What's the most important message you have for the business community?

I've always believed, first off, that public/private partnerships are really going to be the key to Pennsylvania and any state's success. Individuals sometimes say, well, government can handle it. That's not possible. Being at DPW almost two years, I can tell you that we really are at a point where we are skeletal. We don't have enough employees to do the work that we're asked to do. So relationships in the communities, relationships between the public and private sector, are critical.

I think we can learn from businesses. Back in York County, I was director of human services and I put together a commission, and many of the members were business leaders. They taught me so much about running a business, about managing, just a whole lot of things that I didn't know a whole lot about because I was always in the public sector. So we need to partner, and I think that's the biggest message to share.

We have an early learning group of people who are all from big businesses across Pennsylvania, and our success in that area can really be attributed to them and their work, because they are out advocating and educating communities. We should have that for every piece of what we do, not just early learning.

Another example is individuals with disabilities. Many of them can work, should work and are excellent workers. To give people skills and opportunities to do work, to feel important and to get off welfare rolls is so important. Building those relationships (with businesses that will make such actions possible) is really key to our success at DPW.

• • •

What questions would you ask Mackereth if you had the opportunity?

• • •

More to the point, what questions will you ask Andy Carter, president of The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, in our live chat with him from 9 to 10 a.m. this Monday, June 24?

We're expecting that the issue of Medicaid expansion will be a major focus, but if there's one thing that I've learned as we've done these online events it is that you, our readers, have good questions, and it's really rewarding to be able to facilitate experts answering them.

So please mark your calendars and join us next week — and if you absolutely can't make it, feel free to email me your questions ahead of time and check out the replay of the chat afterward. And, as always, if we're not able to include your question in the chat, or it's not really going to be in the HAP subject area but you'd really like an answer, please submit it at any time to our Health Care Reform Expert Advisory Panel — it's free!

• • •

Continuing the interrogatory theme, what do you think of buying health insurance from the State Workers' Insurance Fund?

State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced House Bill 1526, which would expand the fund's offering to include health insurance. The fund, which provides an option for Pennsylvania businesses that cannot access workers' comp insurance in the private sector, is currently permitted to sell only workers' compensation insurance.

Freeman said there would be no extra cost to taxpayers; the offering would be paid for with premiums from health care subscribers and a loan from the SWIF fund, which would be paid back. He proposed an effective date you've heard before: Jan. 1, 2014.

"By allowing SWIF to offer health insurance, it would make a quality insurance product available to Pennsylvanians at a lower cost than current rates because of its lower administrative overhead, and it would create more competition within the health insurance market," Freeman said in a news release. "In addition, by making this available in the market, it would serve as a yardstick by which to measure the fairness of rates charged by private health insurance companies."

Freeman went on to say that he thought the proposal "will effectively bring health care policies back to an affordable range for the average Pennsylvanian."

I confess general unfamiliarity with SWIF, and I'm pretty sure there's no one magic bullet in health care — but change of any sort usually begets further change. Do you think this one would be positive or negative?

• • •

Finally, Capital BlueCross unveiled a new logo this week, for the first time in 50 years. According to a news release, it symbolizes the company's evolution for a new insurance marketplace. What do you think of it?

Heather Stauffer covers Lancaster County, nonprofits and health care. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at You can also follow her on Twitter, @StaufferCPBJ.

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