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Tech, staffing problems dog Pa.'s Medicaid purge

Plus, the latest on Pa.'s changing demographics.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
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Tuesday, October 24, 2023
In today's edition: Medicaid 'unwinding,' Rozzi's running, 2024 vision, book bans, getting older, college concerns, and $200k in stolen dimes.
COSTLY CONFUSION

Pennsylvania's wholesale review of Medicaid eligibility for hundreds of thousands of adults and children has been made more difficult by outdated tech, policy issues, and staffing shortages, Spotlight PA reports.

Tens of thousands of people in Pennsylvania are believed to have wrongly lost their benefits, at least temporarily, during the eligibility review that was touched off by the end of a pandemic-era continuous enrollment policy.

Advocates for health care access argue the tech issues affecting the process are compounded by short-staffing and official decisions that transferred new responsibilities to already overburdened caseworkers.

Read the full report: Bad tech, staffing shortages hinder Pa. as it reassesses health care coverage for 1000s.

THE CONTEXT: Bethany, a 27-year-old mom of two from Western Pennsylvania, said she played hours of “phone tag” to resolve Medicaid issues only to be hit with conflicting notices this month. 

Patrick Keenan — policy director at the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, which advocates for people in the benefits system — said at least part of the error affecting Bethany was likely due to "staffing issues."

But while Bethany waits for the problem to be resolved, her daughters remain uninsured, with Bethany saying it's too expensive to add them to her work insurance — "we're talking a $5,000 deductible."

"It's October. It's flu season. COVID exists," she added. "My kids get sick, I have to wonder, can I take them to the doctor?"

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"I've spoken to President Trump, and he supports my decision."

—U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R., Pa.) on his decision to withdraw from the race for speaker of the U.S. House, leaving eight Republicans in the running
 
🗳 ELECTION INFO
At Spotlight PA, we put voters front and center in our nonpartisan election coverage. Get all the information you need to make an informed vote this November by visiting our Election Center website

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» Complete guide to the candidates for Commonwealth, Superior Courts

» What to know about the judicial retention questions on Pa. ballots

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» Elecciones Pa. 2023: Traducciones al Español

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📅 UPCOMING EVENTS

» VOTER READY: Join us Thursday, Nov. 2 from 6-7 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on voting rights in Pennsylvania, important dates and deadlines, and answers to your remaining Election Day questions. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

» RESULTS REVIEW: Join us, the New Pennsylvania Project, and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6-7 p.m. for a Q&A on the election results. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

📷 POST IT

Amish buggy parked at Yellow Creek State Park in Indiana County, via Jane M. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A horse and buggy surrounded by fall foliage and fallen leaves.
DAILY RUNDOWN
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.IN THE RUNNING: Former state House speaker Mark Rozzi (D., Berks) has joined the race for auditor general, entering the Democratic primary against state Rep. Malcom Kenyatta (D., Philadelphia). The two have history, and Rozzi, who pushed to ban legislators from seeking two offices simultaneously after Kenyatta did just that, says he won't seek reelection to the state House while running for auditor.
  • RELATED: Two Dems announce runs for Dauphin County state House seat being vacated by Rep. Patty Kim, via The Sentinel
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.2024 SIGNALS: The AP is looking to local contests in the Democratic strongholds of Philadelphia and Allegheny County this November for omens ahead of next year's balloting. Among the focal points: the strength of progressives and how voters feel about crime, a subject that has nationalized Allegheny County's district attorney contest between a progressive Democrat and a Democrat running as a Republican.
 
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BOOK REVIEWS: Northampton County's Nazareth Area School District is set to weigh a Moms for Liberty-linked challenge of at least one library book, Push by Sapphire, this week, with dozens more challenges looming. In Harrisburg, a GOP-sponsored "parental control" bill is on the move and reviving censorship concerns, while a Democrat's bill to prevent book bans in public libraries faces long odds.

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.CHANGING STATE: Pennsylvania has one of the oldest populations in the nation, and a new report from the Independent Fiscal Office says the share of residents over the age of 80 will grow by 21% here from 2025-30. "By 2030, about 35% of all older adults in the Commonwealth will be part of the retiree cohort," the report adds in a section on projected labor force impacts. Health care impacts are also looming.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.COLLEGE CUTS: Five private colleges in the Pittsburgh area signed onto a study on forming a nonprofit consortium to share administrative services and costs, with a dozen more schools expressing interest. But Inside Higher Ed reports some of the schools involved are backing away from the consortium goal — "even before they know how feasible it would be" — citing misaligned missions and job cut concerns.
IN OTHER NEWS

RENDELL DEFENSE: Ex-Gov. Ed Rendell is defending embattled University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill amid a wave of pro-Israel criticism, saying mistakes were made but Magill shouldn't be forced out.

  • RELATED: U.S. Sen. John Fetterman's former campaign staffers urge him to support Israel-Hamas ceasefire, via The Intercept

FIVE YEARS: This Friday will mark five years since the massacre at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. The gunman has been sentenced to death. TribLIVE has the latest on the synagogue's rebuilding efforts.

HUB STATUS: The Lehigh Valley wasn't among the dozens of U.S. technology hubs tapped by President Joe Biden on Monday to compete for millions in supporting federal grants, but Philadelphia was.

DIME CASE: The Inquirer (paywall) reports four men have been charged with stealing $200,000 in dimes from a Philadelphia parking lot earlier this year. The heist was one in a spree of tractor-trailer robberies, per police.

'HOME RUN': Pennsylvania's treasury is auctioning off unclaimed property this week, including a 1911 John Franklin “Home Run” Baker tobacco card. The Philadelphia Athletics star also played for the Reading Pretzels.

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THE SCRAMBLER
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.
 
A I T O N I T O N N
 
Yesterday's answer: Vegetation

Congrats to our daily winners: Vicki U., Jody A., Tracy S., Eric F., Barbara F., Don H., Kimberly D., Becky C., Susan N.-Z., Jon W., Stacy S., Kevin H., Bob C., Johnny C., Susan D., Judith D., Jane R., Michael T., Elaine C., Craig E., James B., Dennis M., Joel S., William Z., Marie B., Wendy A., David W., Kim C., and Tom M.
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