Sometimes It’s the Little Things...
This week, a press release noted the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) unanimously voted against a motion allowing utility companies to impose an additional fee on consumers who get their bill in a paper format, instead of electronically.
Although the issue didn’t receive a lot of attention, this ruling enables Pennsylvania utility customers to avoid another unwanted and unnecessary fee on their monthly bill. The utilities’ request to charge individuals an additional fee for bills in paper format does not seem to factor for how many Pennsylvanians manage their finances. Many Pennsylvanians, particularly older Pennsylvanians, don’t use a home computer on a regular basis. Many others don’t have access to a home computer at all and would need to rely on public computers, which could pose security concerns.
AARP was among a number of consumer groups that submitted formal comments to the PUC protesting this request by the utilities. In an environment where it appears that utilities are attempting to impose as many additional fees on customers as they can (for example the customer charge increases that PPL and PECO requested earlier in 2015 that were either eliminated or greatly reduced), it is gratifying to know the PUC will not allow utilities to charge customers an additional fee simply for wanting a paper copy of their utility bills.
Legislation to Expand Duties for Nurse Practitioners
Last week, the House Professional Licensure Committee met to discuss a bill which could transform the healthcare industry and how Pennsylvanians receive medical care.
House Bill 765, introduced by Representative Jesse Topper, would allow nurse practitioners to examine patients and prescribe treatments without the direct supervision of a licensed physician. Supporters of the legislation, including the Institute of Medicine, the National Governors’ Association and AARP, believe this expansion of the scope of practice for nurse practitioners is a much needed reform. With an older population requiring more health services and family caregivers seeking assistance from medical professionals, empowering nurse practitioners could improve access to quality health care. Some physicians have expressed concerns whether the training of nurse practitioners would be sufficient for them to take on this expanded role.
Twenty-one other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation. Senator Pat Vance has introduced a bill in the Pennsylvania State Senate, SB 717, identical to Topper’s house bill. As Pennsylvania looks to ensure its citizens have adequate medical care, these bills will receive increased scrutiny this legislative session.
State Budget Impasse Update
Nothing to see or say here, as we are still at an impasse on the state budget. While most Pennsylvanians can go about their normal activities, this impasse creates a growing concern for service providers who rely on funding to assist people in their communities and for school districts who receive significant funding from the State. The lack of a state budget could mean that many communities will have to seek out loans or ask employees to work without pay until a budget is passed which, based on the lack of any meaningful progress this week, doesn’t look to happen soon.
“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.