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Ban profits to save Pa. hospitals, lawmakers say

Plus, Philly revises water advisory after chemical spill.

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Monday, March 27, 2023
Hospital bills, whiplash warning, settlement approved, DA scrutiny, missing evidence, $1M tab, and underground history. Welcome to the week.
🏆  TEST YOURSELF: Confident you followed the news closely last week? There’s only one way to prove it: Put your knowledge to the test with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz.

Amid a spate of hospital closures and service cuts, Pennsylvania lawmakers are reintroducing legislation that would prohibit for-profit hospitals here.

A co-sponsorship memo sent out by Democratic state Sens. John Kane, Tim Kearney, Anthony Williams, and Amanda Cappelletti last week calls for a moratorium on private equity and for-profit owners and managers.

The bill, part of a larger package aimed at stifling profit motives in health care, comes after the closures of two Delaware County hospitals under a private-equity owner with a history of drastic, investor-driven cuts.

Read Bloomberg's full report: Pennsylvania lawmakers look to fight hospital closures with a curb on for-profit buyers.

THE CONTEXT: The now-shuttered Delaware County facilities — Springfield Hospital and Delaware County Memorial — belonged to Crozer Health.

According to WHYY, health care observers traced Crozer's financial troubles back to a private-equity deal that left its parent company, Prospect Medical Holdings, buried under a mountain of debt.

ProPublica reported in 2020 that investors siphoned $400 million from Prospect as it struggled to afford gas for its ambulances.

Gov. Josh Shapiro, then Pennsylvania's attorney general, was urged to stop the deal, but his office said it lacked the necessary jurisdiction. 

In a pre-election interview with WHYY, Shapiro noted that for-profit health care operators are governed by the state's Department of Health, which is part of the executive branch, adding: "I do think part of this has to be more aggressive enforcement by the governor's administration."

But Shapiro also noted that existing regulations are weak.


"Due to the violence of the explosion, and the amount of time that has passed, the chance of finding survivors is decreasing rapidly."

—West Reading Fire Chief Chad Moyer on Friday's explosion at the R.M. Palmer Co. chocolate plant; seven deaths have been confirmed
» UNEQUAL ELECTIONS: Join us and a panel of election experts on Thursday, March 30 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free discussion on unequal voting policies in the state, how they impact voters, and possible solutions. Register for the event here and submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
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Harrisburg's Market Street Bridge, via @debarcjenks. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
A stone arch bridge at sunset.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.WATER ADVISORY: After prompting a run on bottled water, Philadelphia officials updated guidance issued Sunday to say the city's water should be safe to drink until at least this evening. The advisory followed a chemical spill into a Delaware River tributary in Bucks County late last week. The city obtains approximately 58% of its water from the river. Here's a map of potentially impacted areas.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.$3M SETTLEMENT: York County Regional Police Department has been ordered to pay $3 million to the mother of two children killed by their father in a case that drew national headlines in 2021. PennLive reports the mother, Marisa Vicosa, accused the police of failing to adequately respond when the father, Robert Vicosa, a former Baltimore County police officer, abducted them. The settlement was approved Friday.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.'PLAYING POLITICS': Allegheny County DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr. is accused of politicizing crimes weeks out from a primary challenge. TribLIVE reports two assistant DAs told a judge they couldn't drop charges or arrange pleas in certain cases because it's election season. Zappala denies any political motives. In related news: His criticism of Kennywood security is drawing pushback as well.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.HEFTY SUMS: Legal fees are set to exceed $1 million as the Central Bucks School District uses taxpayer money to defend itself against allegations of anti-LGBTQ policies in its schools, WHYY reports. The Duane Morris law firm is charging the district $300,000 to $500,000 a month, for at least three months, Chief of Operations Tara Houser revealed at last week's district finance committee meeting.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.MISSING VIDEO: Video from inside the train involved in February's toxic Ohio derailment was mostly wiped out when the locomotive was immediately put back into service by Norfolk Southern, a federal official testified. The move potentially denied crucial information to investigators. In related news: The AP reports that students in East Palestine seeking normalcy are finding upended routines instead.

'CEASE & DESIST': Honorary Philadelphian and "Abbott Elementary" star Sheryl Lee Ralph never named the "famous TV judge" she says sexually assaulted her, but one is threatening a defamation suit in response.

IUP COLLAPSE: Twelve people were hurt when the floor collapsed at an off-campus apartment near Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, per TribLIVE. It happened during the 11th annual IUPatty's weekend.

WATCH IT BACK: If you missed last week's Q&A with Pulitzer-winning "Poverty, By America" author Matthew Desmond and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta in Harrisburg, you can watch it anytime here on YouTube.

POWER STRUGGLE: Fifty York County properties could be gone in a matter of years under a hydroelectric power plant project that residents are vowing to oppose. "It's going to be a battle," farmer Jake Horton told WPMT.

FASCINATING FIND: Beaver County Times reports a brick tunnel hidden since the 1800s and possibly connected to the Underground Railroad was unearthed during sewer repairs at the Merrick Art Gallery in New Brighton.

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 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Expeditiously

Congrats to our weekly winner: Dan A.

Congrats to our daily winners: Vanessa J., Ted W., Susan D., Eric F., Michelle T., Vicki U., Julie K., Judith D., Mark O., John A., Mike B., Daniel M., Patricia R., Beth T., Susan R., Chris K., Irene R., Joe W., James B., Dennis M., Frederick H., Sarah B., Tom P., Ada M., Wendy A., Ronnee G., John P., John H., Amy Z., Stacy S., Lynne E., Jane R., Chuck M., Kimberly D., Joel S., Rebecca L., Don H., Starr B., Elaine C., James L., Susan N.-Z., Mary H., Beth H., Jodi R., Kevin M., Bill S., Karen W., Kim C., Becky C., John F., Barbara F., Stanley J., Tish M., Bruce B., William Z., Suzanne S., John H., Dianne K., Craig W., and Gail E.
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