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Why 400K people in PA could lose health insurance

Plus, five Pittsburgh police fired over in-custody death.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 24, 2022
Coverage cutoffs, force review, high prices, 'deliberate act,' project stoppers, fee fighters, and dispatches from Ukraine. It's Thursday. 
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President Joe Biden is under pressure to end the years-old COVID-19 public health emergency. Doing so could mean hundreds of thousands of people in Pennsylvania alone losing vital health coverage through Medicaid.

The public health emergency made enrolling in Medicaid easier and being removed from Medicaid much harder. If it ends, an estimated 400,000 Pennsylvanians who maintained coverage under the emergency rules could effectively be disqualified from that coverage overnight.

WESA reports state officials are preparing for that scenario. They're prioritizing quick transitions of people to other coverage options, including the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and low-cost plans obtained through the state's Affordable Care Act marketplace, Pennie.

Advocates, meanwhile, fear a wave of clerical chaos will ensue.

THE CONTEXT: In Pennsylvania, Spotlight PA reported Medicaid enrollment grew exponentially during the pandemic, demonstrating the economic devastation wrought by the public health crisis here.

Now, with mitigation measures being relaxed across the U.S., congressional Republicans want the Biden administration to go even further. 

While the end of the public health emergency will impact Medicaid recipients who would not otherwise qualify, recent congressional funding decisions around the pandemic stand to impact the public more broadly.

Congress' refusal to authorize new COVID-19 funding has already left testing providers unable to be reimbursed for tests given to uninsured people. That could severely hamper the supply as a new variant spreads
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"The new maps don't guarantee us a majority ... but what they do is they give us an opportunity. Which, in a swing state, is what we ought to have."

—Trevor Southerland, executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee, on the state's new legislative maps
Harrisburg's Zembo Shrine Building, courtesy of Robert N. Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
FIVE FIRED: Five Pittsburgh police have been fired over the death of Jim Rogers, who died after he was repeatedly tasered by officers investigating a bike theft in the city last year. TribLIVE reports city officials declined to name the officers or explain the decision-making process around the terminations. Three other officers involved have been reinstated and recommended for disciplinary action.

POT PRICES: Pennsylvania's top medical marijuana regulator has joined medical marijuana patients here in criticizing the state program's stubbornly high retail prices, WITF reports. Outgoing director of the state's Office of Medical Marijuana, John Collins, raised the red flag during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board this week. Collins and others said regulators are hamstrung, while producers blame state rules for pushing prices up.

FIRST-DEGREE: Delores White of Erie told police she stabbed her daughter's ex-boyfriend to stop a violent attack on her child. She thought it was a clear-cut case of self-defense. Prosecutors didn't, charging White with first-degree, deliberate murder — an automatic life sentence in Pennsylvania if convicted. Vox profiled the case for its series called "America's struggle for forgiveness."

UP IN THE AIR: A major natural gas processing plant is on hold in Wyalusing following a legal challenge by environmental activists. The AP reports the $800 million plant would liquefy million of gallons of Marcellus Shale natural gas daily. Under a settlement, the developers agreed to halt construction. If they want to restart the project, the company would need to start the air emissions permitting process over.

RENT RULES: Pittsburgh landlords are suing to stop a new rental registration program from taking effect there this May, calling related fees "grossly disproportionate." There have been attempts by the city to launch a similar program before, with tenant safety in mind. All have been derailed by legal action. This time, the associated fees are much lower. The landlords' lawsuit claims they're still too high.
WAR STORIES: Philadelphia photographer Mike Logsdon is in Ukraine documenting the human toll of the war there, telling Billy Penn: "Each of these men, women, and children have a story." See his photos

INTERNAL REVIEW: Grove City College will soon receive the findings of a review initiated after parents and trustees aired grievances about discussions of race and racism on campus, the Post-Gazette reports.

MADAME MAYOR: City & State reports cities and towns across Pennsylvania are electing woman mayors at a record rate. The outlet talked to some of them about the hurdles, double-standards, and the trend itself. 

RIDE-ALONG: The Port Authority of Allegheny County gave its Twitter followers a live play-by-play this week as its staffers found a kitten, fell for it, worked with it, watched over it, and, ultimately, found it a home.

BAT STATUS: A type of bat decimated by white-nose syndrome, a fungus-related ailment, has been proposed for the endangered species list. The northern long-eared bat's range includes all of Pennsylvania.
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.

*This week's theme: Outer space
Yesterday's answer: Elongation

Congrats to our daily winners: Bonnie R., Becky C., Craig W., Susan N.-Z., Elaine C., Don H., James B., Kimberly S., Doris T., Pat B., George S., Steve H., Dianne K., Marisa B., Vicki U.,  Kyle C., and David W.
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