Feb. 27, 2024

Acting Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen, Executive Deputy Secretary Kristen Rodack, Deputy for Administration Danielle Pierre, and Chief Financial Officer Andrea Race, were joined today by Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Dr. Latika Davis-Jones, Deputy Secretary Kelly Primus, and Bureau Director of Quality Assurance and Administration Jennifer Newell to testify before the House Appropriations Committee. House Republicans inquired about the fiscal health of each agency and asked pointed questions on the amount of funding for current programs and proposed new initiatives. Additionally, Republicans asked about long-term care facility regulations, hospital sustainability, adult-use cannabis, and substance abuse disorder treatment.

Key Takeaways

· House Republicans inquired about the effect of legalizing adult-use cannabis on the current Medical Marijuana Program. Both the DOH and DDAP stated they too have not yet seen a formal plan on the Governor’s proposal for adult use cannabis and could not speak to the impact, which is the recurring theme when other departments were questioned on the details of Governor Shapiro’s other proposals.

· Long-term care facilities across the Commonwealth have expressed concern with their ability to meet the requirements of the DOH long-term care facility regulations promulgated in late 2022. House Republicans questioned the DOH on this regulatory package and whether the DOH has considered the potential negative impacts including, providers closing staffed beds and reducing current capacity.

· Drug and alcohol addictions, unfortunately, continue to be an ongoing problem in our Commonwealth. House Republicans inquired with the DDAP about their efforts to address ever-growing substance abuse issues and the efficacy of the department’s programs.

· House Republicans expressed concern that the DOH is not proactively working with hospitals to prevent further hospital closures in the Commonwealth.

· When questioned about the Supreme Court’s unilateral decision to allow venue shopping in medical malpractice civil lawsuits, House Republicans were discouraged that the DOH had no opinion given the potential impact on the Commonwealth’s physicians and hospitals.

Notable Q&A

Rep. Ann Flood asks for an update on the Maternal Mortality Initiative and why $2.289 million of the appropriated $2.32 million is still unspent. 

Rep. John Lawrence asks how the Department of Health can work more proactively to prevent hospital closures in Pennsylvania. 

Rep. Torren Ecker expresses frustration with DOH’s ambivalence on the Supreme Court's unilateral decision to allow for venue shopping. 

Full Hearing

Watch the full hearing here.

Rep. Seth Grove, Republican Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee
196th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives