A bill allocating $225 million in state relief to support health care professionals and strengthen Pennsylvania’s health care workforce has been approved by both the House and Senate and awaits a signature from Gov. Tom Wolf.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga, Bradford and Potter counties, was introduced to the House in early 2021 to establish a task force to “improve the safety, well-being and permanency of substance-exposed infants and other young children adversely affected by their parents’ substance abuse disorders.”
It was approved by the Senate on Tuesday with amendments including $225 million from Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to be given to hospitals and their employees.
The amended bill sets aside: $100 million to be allocated to all Pennsylvania hospitals based on licensed beds for all facilities; $110 million for supplemental payments for critical access hospitals, high Medical Assistance hospitals and behavioral health providers of inpatient services; and $15 million to fund the Student Loan Relief for Nurses Program.
The bill’s amendments were approved by the House today. It will now be sent to Wolf, who said today that he “will be proud to sign this legislation into law.”
“This measure will provide, among other things, much needed funding to help our hospitals in Dauphin, Cumberland and Berks counties address severe workforce shortages while allowing us to offer incentives and recruit and retain top talent,” said Deborah Addo, executive vice president and COO at Penn State Health. “Further, by supporting the Pennsylvania Student Loan Relief for Nurses Program, it will help us to replace nurses who have left the profession in recent years. This action by the General Assembly is a much-needed lifeline for hospitals and behavioral health facilities.”
Upon its passage in the Senate on Tuesday, the amended bill received support across the state for its promise to deliver support to health care professionals following two years on the front lines of the pandemic.
“There was an industry-wide health care staffing shortage before the pandemic, which has now become a crisis that threatens to affect patient care,” said Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. “House Bill 253 will support health care professionals immediately and begin to address some long-term challenges of the staffing crisis. This investment in our health care heroes will help Pennsylvania’s health care system provide high-quality care now and in the future.”