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What Biden's nursing home rules would mean for Pa.

Plus, scrutiny of a skill games advocate.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Tuesday, September 12, 2023
Mandatory minimums, skill game scrutiny, military testing, 2024 vision, state search, sudden closure, and Pennsylvania's artistic side.

President Joe Biden's administration has proposed nationwide minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes that would raise the bar higher than Pennsylvania just did with its first state-level update in decades. 

Per The Inquirer: Biden said other types of workers also provide essential care in nursing homes, and estimates that when they are accounted for residents will receive roughly four hours of care daily under his plan. That's more than the 3.2 hours Pennsylvania will require under its own expanded rules.

Patient safety advocates have long equated more direct care hours with better patient outcomes, and SEIU Pennsylvania, a union representing nursing home workers here, has applauded efforts to raise them. Nursing home owners, meanwhile, are calling this another "unfunded mandate." 

Find The Inquirer's paywalled report here: White House staffing requirements for nursing homes: What would they mean for Pa.?

THE CONTEXT: As Spotlight PA previously reported, COVID-19 highlighted the failure to improve nursing home oversight in Pennsylvania, one of the most elderly states in the nation, and the dangerously low staffing requirements noted by former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Here's a 2019 map of the best-staffed nursing homes in the state.

New staffing requirements followed under former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and began to take effect this summer; it was estimated that nursing homes would need to hire 1,400 nursing aides to meet the quota.

But care providers argued that the money wasn't there and that the state’s low Medicaid reimbursement rate remained a major roadblock. While Wolf signed legislation upping those state reimbursement rates, the rates change annually, and Biden's more stringent proposal has no funding attached. Providers say there's another angle to consider as well: An ongoing industrywide shortage of interested applicants.


"At this point, if Dave McCormick doesn’t run, it’ll be the biggest head fake in Pennsylvania political history."
—GOP campaign strategist Vince Galko on Pennsylvania Republicans' ongoing efforts to get David McCormick to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.)
With a big election coming up and huge stakes in 2024, we can't afford a future in Pennsylvania without Spotlight PA. And we urgently need your help to make sure our vital investigative and public-service reporting can continue.

The first 500 gifts of any amount made during our Fall Member Drive will be DOUBLED by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. This is a huge opportunity to leverage your gift and unlock HUGE matching support for Spotlight PA.

A big thanks to the 45 people who have given so far, including Eric F., who said, "you are doing essential, excellent work."

Join Eric & contribute now »
» Pa. to review fees that guide pay for disability aids, via @gill_mcgoldrick
» State Rep. Solomon joins race for state attorney general, via WHTM
» Pa. Freedom Caucus to GOP: bar NEA donations, via @StephenJ_Caruso
» Pa. lawmaker proposes puberty blocker ban for minors, via PoliticsPA
» Work begins to overhaul Pa. school funding, via PennLive (paywall)
» CRIMINAL SOLUTION: Join Spotlight PA, the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and experts Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6-7:30 p.m. ET at Point Park University for a live discussion on how a Pennsylvania law traps people with mental health issues in jail. RSVP now; seating is limited. 

» STORY FEST: Spotlight PA is participating in Philly Story Fest, a first-of-its-kind festival that brings together storytellers from across the city on one stage. Join us Thursday, Oct. 5 from 7-10 p.m. at the Bok building in South Philadelphia (1901 South 9th St.). Tickets are $25 and available here.

» PATH TO EQUITY: Join Spotlight PA for its first in-person summit on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Spotlight PA is co-presenting this event with Color & Culture, a Pennsylvania marketing firm. Tickets are on sale at this link until sold out.
A new one by Harrisburg's Sprocket Mural Works, as seen by @yatsko. Have a photo you'd like the whole state to see? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A mural on the facade of a building depicting large butterflies mingling with plants.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.SKILL GAMES: State Sen. Gene Yaw (R., Lycoming) is among the loudest voices in Harrisburg in favor of formally legalizing and regulating so-called skill games — slot machine-like devices that occupy a grey area under state law. But Capital-Star reports his ties to the industry are raising questions and conflict of interest concerns.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
TEST SUBJECT: Bob Krafty was still a teen when he volunteered for the military draft in 1964. Now, six decades later, The Morning Call (paywall) reports the 78-year-old is recounting the abuse he says he suffered as a test subject for a now-infamous military program that used LSD, nerve agents, and other psychoactive chemicals on military personnel.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
HIGH COURT: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has deadlocked on key election cases in recent years, but with voters set to return it to a full seven-member compliment this November, The Inquirer (paywall) says that seventh justice could be the deciding vote on similar issues, including legal questions around next year's presidential contest.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
PRISON BREAK: The search for escapee Danelo Cavalcante in Chester County is shifting and the reward for information leading to his capture is growing. The cost of the massive search isn't clear yet, but Forbes reports the 2014 search for Eric Frein cost Pennsylvania taxpayers roughly $1.3 million a week, or $1.6 million in today's dollars.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SHELTER STOP: With its shelters at or near capacity, Allegheny County closed one downtown homelessness facility earlier this year and committed overflow space at a shelter that is now closed until November, PublicSource reports. The county had said the overflow shelter would be open for six months but it's only been three.
Support Spotlight PA's investigative journalism for Pennsylvania and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
CHATHAM CUTS: PublicSource reports Pittsburgh's historic Chatham University is facing a projected $8-12 million budget hole and resorting to layoffs and benefit cuts. One staffer said: "We were all blindsided." 

MEEK MILL: Axios has the oral history of how Philadelphia's own Meek Mill went "from rapper to culture hero" after popping a wheelie.

ART OF THE STATE: The 56th Art of the State exhibition includes 86 artworks by 86 Pennsylvania artists from 29 counties. Take a virtual tour here.

LOST BIRDS: Flamingos blown off course by Hurricane Idalia are showing up in Pennsylvania, WHYY reports. A pair was spotted in Franklin County.

MUDDY MESS: City Paper delves into the interesting (and chaotic) past of pigs in Pittsburgh and how the animals once ran the city.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.
Yesterday's answer: Grasshopper

Congrats to our daily winners: Eric F., John E., Barbara F., Kimberly D., Don H., Ted W., Mark O., Jody A., Richard A., Jon W., Bonnie S., Wendy A., Vanessa J., Kerry L., Nancy S., Mike B., Vicki U., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Steve D., Susan D., Jane R., Dan A., Carol S., James B., Becky C., Dennis M., Pam W., Mark C., Craig E., Daniel S., William Z., and Jim A.
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