Protecting whistleblowers and taxpayer money: Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill and Lindsey Williams reintroduce Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Act

HARRISBURG – Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Lindsey M. Williams (D-Allegheny) announced today that they plan to reintroduce the Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Act for Taxpayer Accountability (CFPA) this session. This legislation, which was introduced last session as SB38, will serve as a Pennsylvania False Claims Act. The CFPA is modeled on the Federal False Claims Act, which celebrates its 160th Anniversary this year.

The Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Act will protect whistleblowers against retaliation for reporting waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. According to the 2022 Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Report to the Nations, about 42% of fraud is detected by tip and more than 50% of tips come from employees. Protecting these whistleblower employees from retaliation is crucial to safeguarding Pennsylvania’s taxpayer dollars.

“The failure of the Commonwealth to adopt a civil fraud statute has prevented Pennsylvania from recovering taxpayer money lost to fraud,” said Senator Phillips-Hill. “We must encourage the individuals to come forward who can thwart scams and save taxpayers thousands, if not millions of dollars, as evidenced in other states with these protections in place. This bipartisan proposal will add those protections to encourage the stewards of taxpayer dollars to come forward and will serve as a much-needed step in the right direction to address the scams and fraudulent activity across all layers of state government.”

“As both a whistleblower myself and as an attorney who worked with whistleblowers for years, I can tell you that people want to do the right thing and report fraud when they see it,” said Senator Williams. “But there are a lot of risks in reporting. You can lose your job, your healthcare, and your retirement all in one fell swoop. We need to look out for these whistleblowers so that they can look out for all of us—this really is the most effective way that we can stop waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money.”

In addition to providing the critical information needed to investigate and pursue funds lost to waste, fraud, and abuse, the CFPA includes all provisions required for compliance with the Federal False Claims Act. This will allow Pennsylvania to recoup an additional 10% of any monies recovered under the law. Similar legislation has shown extraordinary results. Since the enactment of the federal False Claims Act, thirty-one states have passed their own state false claims acts, including several of our bordering states. The state of Maryland passed its state false claims act in 2015. Since Maryland passed its state False Claims Act in 2015, they have recovered $81.6 million. In 2008, the state of New Jersey adopted its state false claims act and has since recovered over $147 million for their taxpayers.

“Each year, the General Assembly establishes a budget that spends millions of dollars in taxpayer money on services for Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Williams. “The Commonwealth Fraud Prevention Act will help us make sure that if tax dollars are not spent as intended we can discover that fraud, recover those funds, and ensure it doesn’t happen again. A state False Claims Act is a powerful tool for government accountability and transparency that Pennsylvania needs before we pass another budget.”

Senate approves bipartisan bill to strengthen First Amendment rights for teachers

HARRISBURG – The Senate of Pennsylvania approved a measure to eliminate a section from the state’s Education Code that prohibits a teacher from wearing any dress, mark, emblem, or insignia indicative of his or her faith or denomination, according to the measure’s sponsors, Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

Senate Bill 84 would align Pennsylvania with every other state in the nation in preserving and protecting First Amendment rights for educators.

“This long overdue legislation needs to reach the governor’s desk to make Pennsylvania the 50th state to eradicate this archaic law once and for all,” Phillips-Hill said. “With its broad, bipartisan support from legislators and a diverse coalition of stakeholders, this bill will uphold William Penn’s founding principles that our Commonwealth stands for religious freedom and tolerance.”

The senators argue the existing archaic law violates the First Amendment.  

“It’s a First Amendment right to express your religious beliefs. Everyone, and most certainly our educators, should be free to exercise that right in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is not an endorsement of any one religion; it allows people of all faiths to express themselves,” Schwank said.

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Ku Klux Klan supported similar laws across the nation due to anti-Catholic sentiment at the time. Pennsylvania’s original 1895 law served as the model for three dozen states that pursued similar anti-First Amendment laws. Today, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with this law in place. Nebraska was the most recent state to repeal its law in 2017. 

This measure now advances to House of Representatives for its consideration.  

Committee advances measure to protect First Amendment rights

HARRISBURG – The Senate Education Committee approved a bipartisan measure to align Pennsylvania with every other state in the nation in preserving and protecting First Amendment rights for educators, according to the measure’s sponsors, Senators Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

The senators’ proposal would eliminate a section from the state’s Education Code that prohibits a teacher from wearing any dress, mark emblem, or insignia indicative of his or her faith or denomination.

“A teacher should not be worried about his or her job for simply wearing a cross on a necklace. Our First Amendment rights do not end simply because a teacher walks into a classroom,” Phillips-Hill said. “The Senate Education committee took an important step to protect our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression.”

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Ku Klux Klan supported similar laws across the nation due to anti-Catholic sentiment at the time. Pennsylvania’s original 1895 law served as the model for three dozen states that pursued similar anti-First Amendment laws. Today, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation with this law in place. Nebraska was the most recent state to repeal its law in 2017. 

The senators argue the existing archaic law is in violation of the First Amendment.  

A federal court case was brought forward in 2003 after a Pennsylvania teacher was suspended from her job pursuant to Section 1112 as well as the intermediate unit’s religious affiliations policy. Her suspension was due to her refusal to comply with her supervisor’s request that she remove or conceal a small cross she regularly wore on a necklace. The court ruled in favor of the teacher, who was rehired with back pay.  

The court’s ruling found that the intermediate unit’s religious affiliations policy violates the free exercise of religion and free speech clauses of the First Amendment. 

Senate Bill 84 now advances to the full Senate for its consideration.  

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Contact:
Jon Hopcraft

Phillips-Hill encourages local residents to check for unclaimed property during holiday season

SPRINGFIELD TWP – Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) is reminding local residents to search for unclaimed property at the state Treasury during the holiday season.

“One in 10 Pennsylvanians has property waiting to be claimed. With the holiday season approaching, York Countians can easily check if they have unclaimed property sitting in the state Treasury,” Phillips-Hill said. “During my first term as a state senator, my team has helped constituents recover more than a quarter million dollars in unclaimed property.”

Phillips-Hill recently toured the Treasury’s vault in Harrisburg with state Treasurer Stacy Garrity. The tour highlighted the efforts Treasurer Garrity and her team have made to streamline the unclaimed property recovery process for Pennsylvanians.

Garrity emphasized one of her signature achievements has been to return military decorations to the veterans who earned them or their families.

“Touring the vault gave me a greater appreciation for the rare items Pennsylvanians may not know are now safeguarded by the state, but waiting to be returned to the rightful owner,” Phillips-Hill added. “I applaud Treasurer Garrity for making the process to recover unclaimed property much easier.”

Residents can check for unclaimed property here: https://www.patreasury.gov/unclaimed-property/

Veterans and their families can check for military decorations here: https://unclaimedproperty.patreasury.gov/en/Medals

Any resident of the 28th Senatorial District with questions about their unclaimed property can contact Phillips-Hill at https://senatorkristin.com/contact-me/.

PHOTO CAPTION: Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) tours the state Treasury vault with Treasurer Stacy Garrity. Phillips-Hill is reminding local residents to check for unclaimed property during the holiday season.

$775,000 grant awarded to expand local police department, Phillips-Hill says

YORK – Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) announced that a $775,000 grant was awarded for the York County Regional Police Department’s expansion on Oak Street.

“Our police officers are so dedicated to keeping our communities safe and defending victims by bringing criminals to justice when necessary,” Phillips-Hill said. “However, the current limitations of the York County Regional Police Department’s building make it more challenging for the officers to do their important work. Because of the grant, the building will be more reflective of the department’s needs, enabling greater efficiency – and ultimately greater service to the community.”

The funding will be used to expand the police department building by creating an addition to enhance and enlarge our men’s and women’s locker rooms. This includes more rooms for roll call to have increased technology for virtual communications between police department buildings with both intra-department and inter-department police personnel.

This project also includes inside storage of several police vehicles and additional storage due to increased demands and seizure of evidence. The additional storage area would create adequate space for evidence storage and long-term evidence storage.

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects. RACP projects are state-funded and cannot obtain primary funding under other state programs.

TUESDAY: News Conference with New PA Senate Republican Leadership Team

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Senate Republicans will hold a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 15 to announce their new leadership team for the 2023-24 legislative session.

The news conference will be held on the second-floor balcony outside the Lieutenant Governor’s office shortly after Tuesday’s session. Session is scheduled to convene at 1 p.m. and will feature the election of an interim President Pro Tempore.

The news conference will be streamed live at PASenateGOP.com and the Senate Republican Caucus Facebook page.

 

CONTACT: Erica Clayton Wright ewright@pasen.gov

Governor signs Phillips-Hill’s landmark health care reform measure into law

HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf signed into a law a measure sponsored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) that makes significant reforms to the prior authorization process for medical treatment, as well as changes to step therapy for prescription drug treatment plans.

Under Act 146 of 2022, health care providers and insurers have to adhere to standards and timely feedback for prior authorization approval for medical treatment and procedures. The law applies to all commercial health insurance carriers and Medicaid plans. The bill also provides a path for appeals to step therapy prescription drug treatment plans to best address provider-recommended option for patients.

Delays in the prior authorization process have often been cited as reasons for patients abandoning treatment plans or negative clinical outcomes, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Medical Association. Prior authorization is the process in which health care providers obtain advance approval from insurers for payment or reimbursement before a specific treatment plan or procedure is delivered to the patient.

Step therapy is a form of prior authorization, but it applies to prescription drug treatment plans. Insurers may recommend different drug treatment option(s) to patients in an effort to control costs.

“This law will expedite health care treatment plans and delivery to the majority of Pennsylvanians. Act 146 will improve health care outcomes and strengthen the relationship between patients and their providers. This law marks one of the most significant reforms to health care in our Commonwealth in decades due to the willingness of all stakeholders working through a process that found compromise,” Phillips-Hill said. “However, we did not lose focus on our goal: improving patient outcomes. Act 146 delivers on this shared goal.”

The new law requires insurers to provide timely approval for both non-urgent and emergency health care services to physicians before services and treatment plans are rendered. The bill also creates streamlined guidelines for step therapy for prescription drugs, as well as new options for patients and their medical professionals to obtain exemption to best treat the medical condition of the patient.

Phillips-Hill notes that health care costs increase under current prior authorization, and step therapy delays as patients abandon treatment plans and often resort to seeking emergency care.

“By connecting patients to their proper treatment earlier, we can keep patients out of emergency rooms and reduce health care costs,” she added.

The law takes effect at the beginning of 2024, which allows health care providers and insurers to establish a system for electronic prior authorization requests.

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Phillips-Hill announces $1M grant to improve Ruins Hall site in the York County Trail Town of Glen Rock Borough

GLEN ROCK – Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) announced a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant was awarded to Glen Rock Ruins Hall for redevelopment and improvement to the site, which boasts a history of manufacturing dating back to the 1870s.

According to the York County Economic Alliance (YCEA), this RACP project will redevelop the area around the Ruins Hall structure, located at 30 Enterprise Street in Glen Rock. The grant will aid in significant improvements to benefit individuals participating in events at Ruins Hall and those utilizing the adjacent Heritage Area Rail Trail by providing restrooms, crosswalks, lighting and parking. 

“As a strong supporter of our York County Trail Towns program, Ruins Hall has been a fixture in our community and serves as a reminder of York County’s rich manufacturing history. I am pleased to see that this venue will continue to delight local residents of all ages by making upgrades that will benefit our community as the popularity of our trail towns program continues to grow,” Phillips-Hill said.

“This is a tremendous win for Glen Rock Borough and our Trail Towns. The Commonwealth’s investment helps build upon the momentum in communities along the Heritage Rail Trail and upon completion of the project it will formalize a welcoming gateway into Glen Rock, which will act both as an attraction and economic driver. We’re thankful for Sen. Phillips-Hill’s continued support of our Trail Towns, this project is a prime example of the potential that exists by investing in our outdoor economy in York County,” said Kevin Schreiber, President & CEO of the YCEA.

RACP is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects. RACP projects are state-funded and cannot obtain primary funding under other state programs. 

Learn more about Ruins Hall here.

Phillips-Hill: Legislature sends governor historic health care reform measure

HARRISBURG – On the final day of its two-year session, the General Assembly sent a measure authored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) to the governor for his signature that would make significant reforms to prior authorization and step therapy for medical treatment.

Phillips-Hill’s legislation would create standards and timely feedback for commercial health insurance plans, as well as Medicaid plans, when health care providers seek prior authorization approval from insurers. The bill also reforms step therapy protocols.

“This has been a daunting journey, but at the end of the day, the health care policy in our Commonwealth drastically improved for patients,” Phillips-Hill said. “We have had considerable input and countless hours of stakeholder meetings involving all individuals with a vested interest in improving patient health care outcomes in our state. I am grateful that my constituent – Dr. Suzette Song – brought this issue to my attention so we could fix a problem facing health care providers every day and limiting their ability to best treat their patients. Today is a big win for health care outcomes in Pennsylvania.”

Prior authorization is the process in which health care providers obtain advance approval for purposes of payment coverage and reimbursement from an insurer before a specific procedure or service is delivered to the patient. The process was initially created to control health care costs for experimental and new procedures. The legislature, through Senate Bill 225, standardized the process and shortened timeframes to provide for much more rapid approval between health care providers and insurers.

Step therapy is another form of prior authorization; however, it applies to prescription drug treatment plans. Insurers may recommend different drug treatment option(s) to patients in an effort to address costs. Health care providers argue this ultimately delays treatment plans and oftentimes leads to patients walking away from treatment all together.

A recent survey of physicians by the American Medical Association found 78% of doctors said that prior authorization delays can lead to their patients to abandoning their treatment.

Senate Bill 225 would require insurers to provide timely approval for both non-urgent and emergency health care services to physicians before services and treatment plans are rendered. The bill also creates streamlined guidelines for step therapy for prescription drugs, as well as new options for patients and their medical professionals to obtain exemption to best treat the medical condition of the patient.

The same survey by the American Medical Association also found that 91% of doctors say prior authorization delays can lead to negative clinical impacts on patients.

“This fixes a major concern in our health care delivery in Pennsylvania and given the bipartisan support, I am hopeful the governor will sign the measure to improve the relationship between patients and providers in our Commonwealth,” Phillips-Hill added.

The governor has 10 days to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) speaks during a Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting on Senate Bill 225 on June 23, 2021. The committee approved the bill with the understanding that all stakeholders would be part of the conversation to refine the measure throughout the session. The General Assembly gave final passage to Phillips-Hill’s measure on Wednesday after more than a year of work on the issue. The bill heads to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for his signature.

Phillips-Hill earns “Guardian of Small Business” for her legislative efforts to prioritize Main Street businesses

HARRISBURG – Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) was awarded with the “Guardian of Small Business” award by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) due to her legislative efforts throughout the 2021-22 session.

“Our small businesses have been and always will be the lifeblood of our economic success all across southern York County and our Commonwealth. I am grateful to work with these local entrepreneurs, their employees and their customers to limit government bureaucratic overreach, reduce costly taxation and work to streamline the regulatory process in Harrisburg,” Phillips-Hill said.

“Sen. Phillips-Hill is consistent and unwavering in her support of the small business community, and as a result, NFIB has recognized her as a Guardian of Small Business. She has once again gone above and beyond her advocacy for Main Street, Pennsylvania, tackling the tough issues that plague our small business communities. NFIB is delighted to acknowledge her effort as only one of 10 legislative members to receive this statue for her voting record,” said Greg Moreland, state director of NFIB.

PHOTO CAPTION: Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) receives her Guardian of Small Business award from NFIB State Director Greg Moreland, center, and NFIB members Warren Hudak, second from right, Jeff Wakeen, left, and Devin Langan, right.