Friday, March 3, 2023

Good morning. A chasm often separates the doctor's office from the laboratories that are breaking new ground in medical care. WellSpan Health has joined a nationwide initiative designed to close the gap, which is measured in years. The challenges are not inconsiderable, as documented in a recent New York Times story on revolutionary advances in stroke care.



Official renews call for state retirement program

Armed with new research about the fiscal burden of inadequate retirement savings, Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity is renewing the push for a state-backed retirement plan for private-sector workers.
  • The plan, dubbed Keystone Saves, would primarily target small businesses that can't afford to offer their own retirement plans.
  • The notion of a state-sponsored plan has been kicking around for at least five years, driven by the recognition that many people are not saving enough money to quit working someday.
  • The lack of savings will tarnish people's golden years. But it also creates a multibillion-dollar burden for the government.

Says who: New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which unveiled its Pennsylvania-specific findings in a webinar yesterday co-hosted by Garrity and John Scott, director of Pew's retirement savings project.
  • Pew estimates Pennsylvania will incur $17.8 billion in costs by 2035 stemming from poor savings, reflecting a mix of lost tax revenue and greater demand for health and social services.
  • At the same time, there will be fewer workers to shoulder the load, Pew added.

What's the fix: Garrity and Pew are pitching Keystone Saves.
  • Under the program, employees of participating companies would be automatically enrolled in a state-run individual retirement account, or IRA.
  • Employees could choose to opt out.
  • Pew estimates that 2 million Pennsylvania workers lack access to job-based retirement savings, such as a 401(k).

Is anyone trying itSixteen states have enacted retirement-plan options for private-sector workers, with 11 going for the so-called auto-IRA option, according to the Center for Retirement Initiatives at Georgetown University.
  • As of the end of January, state plans had accumulated more than $735 million in savings, according to the center, which tracks state-level activity
  • The sate options do not appear to have crowded out private-sector providers, according to Garrity and Scott.
  • "I think the big thing is that the market is not providing cost-effective solutions to small-business owners and, frankly, small-business owners have a lot on their plates," Scott said. "There's just a gap here that needs to be filled and Keystone Saves is an ideal solution."

What's next: Legislation authorizing the program is expected soon, according to Samantha Heckel, a spokesperson for the state Treasury Department.
  • Dozens of lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, co-sponsored Keystone Saves legislation last year.
  • An AARP poll last year also found relatively widespread support for the idea.
  • But the bill never made it out of committee.
  • Garrity's predecessor, former Treasurer Joe Torsella, a Democrat, pushed for a similar program.
  • Garrity, a Republican, said she is optimistic that bipartisan support for the idea will continue.
  • "It really is an issue that's going to impact all of our taxpayers," she said.


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Quick takes

WHO'S SOUNDING ALARMS: Organizations that represent nursing homes and care providers for people with intellectual disabilities. The organizations are warning of continued labor shortages that are jeopardizing access to care. Providers have struggled to attract workers in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Nearly one-third of nursing homes in Pennsylvania have at least 21 openings for direct-care providers, according to a new report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which says inadequate staffing leads nursing homes to deny entry to people seeking care.
  • In the world of services for people with intellectual disabilities and autism, staff shortages and underfunding have spurred an 11% drop in the number of people being served over the last three years, according to research by the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association, Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability and The Provider Alliance.
  • The groups described the care system for people with intellectual disabilities as being in a state of collapse.

The bottom line: Provider groups have been pressing for increases in state and federal aid to cope with rising costs and growing demand for services.
  • Their new research comes ahead of next week's budget address by Gov. Josh Shapiro, scheduled for March 7.


WHO'S GETTING A CRYSTAL BALL: Highmark Health. Well, maybe not a crystal ball. But Highmark's health system subsidiary, Allegheny Health Network, plans to use new technology to better predict flu and Covid-19 outbreaks. The forecasts could help Allegheny ensure it has enough staff and beds ahead of time.
  • The technology is from a San Francisco-based company called Kinsa.
  • Pittsburgh-based Highmark says Allegheny Health is the first health system to use Kinsa's early-warning system.

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Compiled and written by Joel Berg

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