Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gov. Rendell on the PCN Call-In Program

These are rough notes. The program is currently available on PCN's website ( and for those interested in more detail or wish to check something I have presented here should be sure to view the full program. As always, my apologies for any errors or misrepresentations. A number of items mentioned may not be familiar to readers so I have added in links where it seemed useful or a link was easy to find. These are my additions and do not necessarily reflect the governor's opinions.

PCN Call-In Program

January 17, 2007

Gov. Ed Rendell

Rosemary Greco, PA Health Care Reform Director

Host: Larry Kasper

[Opens with shot of First Lady and Federal Judge Midge Rendell singing with Jon Bon Jovi]

Q: How did Mrs. Rendell feel about that?

ER: She actually loved it. It was ER’sidea. I’ve known Bon Jovi since I was head of DNC. He’s a very compassionate guy. Active in Habitat for Humanity. Song "Who Says You Can’t Go Home," video filmed in Philly about Habitat for Humanity. ER says wife a great singer and asks if she can sing with bon Jovi. ER had to convince Midge to do it. She practiced for 6 weeks. Greco friend of Midge and can attest that Midge doesn’t do anything short of perfection. They hadn’t practiced because Bon Jovi’s plane late. But they sang together like clockwork.

Host: Tell us about some of the other acts

ER: Every performer other than Bon Jovi was homegrown PA talent. [He lists them.] So that was the theme of the entertainment. Had country and disco and rock.

Host: How were funds raised

ER: Ticket sales 5000 sold and corporate donations allowed since not a political event, inaugural committee a 501c4. [tape blipped out for a minute or two] Food network chef made 7000 hors d’oeuvres from 3 Pennsylvania products, venison, apples, and mushrooms. We are the #1 mushroom producing state in the country. Highlighted Pennsylvania products.

Host: You have highlighted health care waste

ER: We are joined by Rosemary Greco, since 2003 head of office of Pennsylvania Health Care Reform, former CEO of CoreStates Bank, then had her own company. The 1st component, reduce health care costs, since 2000 70% increase in insurance premiums. Crushes PA businesses, forces them to drop health care. Identified cost factors. One is hospital acquired infections. It costs rate payers 3.5 billion dollars to treat hospital acquired infections, over 2000 of these resulted in death. A few hospitals have pilot projects to reduce infections. Other countries have these. The 2nd component is to cover all Pennsylvanians. In fall ER signed “cover all kids” plan, which will provide coverage all kids in 3 years. That leaves 800,000 adults uninsured. Under the proposed plan small businesses can provide coverage for $135 / month / employee. Make health care available to those 800,000. 1) Increase cigarette tax by 10 cents a pack. 2) Extend taxes to smokeless tobacco and cigars 3) Access over half a billion dollars a year in federal funds for the poor 4) use existing lines move people to new health care program from smaller programs 5) larger companies can join for a larger amount.

Host: RG, what is your role

RG: About 3 years ago the Governor calls and says people all across the state says health care too expensive. Gov charged us to follow the money, where is cost, where is money, also ensure a healthy Pennsylvania for all Pennsylvanians. Saw several areas of inefficiency. Have some of the finest hospitals and health care providers in the world, but still have rising costs. This plan Prescription for Pennsylvania

Host: You will need legislative approval

ER: We may need as many as 47 pieces of legislation, plus regulations, etc. This is necessary for PA, especially businesses competing with foreign business paying nothing for health care. Every Pennsylvanian has a right to be covered with health insurance

Caller: next take a look at failure of electrical deregulation.

ER: as rate caps come off there is an increase in costs; we need to keep those down

Follow-up: health care. In Pittsburgh during campaign, ER said if the legislature would bring you a single payer bill you would sign it. Thinks single payer best way to get health care at least cost, why not lead on that

ER: He would sign if legislature brought him one. Single payer would not be the least expensive; in PA we might have to double the personal income tax to pay for it. Plus single payer does not address the cost factors that are built into the health care costs

RG: In PA over 92% of people are insured, so single payer not as efficient. The federal government needs to step up and solve problem for the country as a whole. It is difficult for one state to do single payer.

Caller: [a question about her son’s employment with Gamesa]

ER: Don’t know facts of case. Gamesa, a Spanish wind energy company, has created jobs and will create more. He asks the woman to send a fax to the station and they will get it to ER. Gamesa have been very responsive. They have unionized, represented by steel workers. [blogger note:]

Host: contact the governor directly, contact info at end of program

Caller: 2 questions. What is your reaction to Barack Obama’s potential presidential run. Do you have presidential ambitions or will you serve your full term?

ER: I made it clear during campaign that will be governor for 4 years. I’m not interested in being vice president, always been his own boss, not very good at working for anybody. Didn’t do a great job in 2000 as DNC chair because had to work for Gore campaign. After gubernatorial term in 2011 might consider other office or cabinet post. Barack Obama is extraordinarily bright and charismatic, but wish he had waited. He has only been a senator for a year. Needs more experience with domestic and foreign policy. Better prepared in the future. Man of great capabilities. Terrific personality. The idea of anAfrican American president may have been foreign 10 years ago but we have made a lot of progress.

Caller: great supporter of Leg Up Farm in York County, a program for horse riding for the disabled. Get off the ground this year?

ER: great program. We’ll consider it if the York reps and senators bring it up. [blogger's note:

Caller: state income tax and solution for health care . casinos and gaming coming. Are you aware that another state (Nevada) has no state income tax because of gaming? Can gaming revenue replace state tax? PA taxed up to the max

ER: ER couldn’t do that if he wanted. Legislation creating gaming said it will be devoted to property tax relief. Of the 42 states with income tax, PA has 41st lowest. You may be thinking of city wage tax which when combined with income tax is a lot. In Philly, gaming monies going to city wage tax instead of property tax.

Follow up: Solve health care crisis by having volunteer retired doctors and dentists provide health care to retired people. Caller has list of volunteers

ER: excellent idea, please send list

Caller: [Personal situation. Caller is a hard worker but very ill, diabetes, long list of illnesses. Earns $8 / hour. Too poor to pay health care, too rich for state program.]

ER: Probably eligible for adult basic health care but there is a long waiting list for it.

RG: Because of caller’s wage level he could apply for the proposed new program and pay as an individual. Currently he is probably eligible for significant discount, $10 or $20 for health care including prescriptions

Caller: Caller is a family practitioner and his wife is an obstetrician. Wife’s malpractice up to $100,000 /year. Any relief?

ER: He hopes the caller’s wife is getting MCARE abatement. Doctors must have private coverage, 500,000 but catastrophic 500,000 through state if in 4 most challenged specialities (obstetrics, neurosurgery, 2 others), get 100% reduction in MCARE costs. No other state given that kind of relief. Done here with help of legislation and judicial reforms

RG: the governor requests for 5 approvals for changes in court case, sooner rather than later, greatly encourage mediation, quicker relief cut legal costs. Mcare abatement makes a big difference for all physicians in the state. All physicians get 50% abatement.

ER: Physicians that take Medicaid patients get extra money from the state.

Host: ER mentioned prospect of smaller legislature

ER: The first step is the formation of a bipartisan committee to study what appropriate size of legislature is for PA. PA has more senators and representatives than California which has a larger population. Do this in line with redistricting and term limits, must amend constitution.

Host: Why bring up term limits in an inaugural speech

ER: We have some great legislators doing a great job, some mistakes such as pay raise, but we need citizen soldiers not those who view it as a career. People should vote their conscience and not worry about losing jobs. There is a tremendous problem with pension costs. If legislators only serve for 8 years then won’t need pension.

Host: reforming political process in general

ER: votes spoke loud and clear about need for reform in legislative process

Caller: [specific case]

ER: takes his name, will call inspector general and ask why complaint not followed

Caller: Will your plan differentiate between employers with bad or good programs? Health safety and welfare, [something about an ethanol plant in Lancaster County]

ER: will follow up

RG: respond to first question. Several things in Prescription for Pennsylvania that will address rising costs of health care insurance premiums. Give insurance commission power to review rates, and discriminatory factors, also health saving accounts, but they usually have high a deductible and not much info on how to spend money, transparency in quality of procedures needed

Caller: ethanol production plants, Can we use brownfields as sites of ethanol plants, keenow (?) township plants, maybe use bethelem steel site

ER: We don’t control where private industry decides build a plant. Encourages all businesses to go into brownfields. Haven’t had too much trouble siting ethanol plants. For example Clearfield County has a $250 Million capital investment with an ethanol plant. The big problem with ethanol plants is the smell. Most new developers say smell problem controlled and dealt with.

Host: what raw materials do we have here in PA that relate to renewable energy

ER: We import corn, trying to step up corn production. Cellulosic ethanol, wood chips, wood fiber, agricultural waste and saw chips. If that can be developed we can be the ethanol producing capital of the US. Wind energy, PA has the highest elevation of any state east of the Mississippi. Biodiesel. Soy a good stock for biodiesel. We have a lot of soy. Landfills. We have a lot of landfills. Landfill gases now being used to product energy. One landfill plant powering 45,000 homes

Caller: with casinos up and running, when is prop tax elimination up and running?

ER: If caller a senior and a retirement income less than $43,000 will get at end of current school year will get a rebate check. Only 3 out of 12 casinos up and running. Also curbs placed on school district budgets unless they are not responsible for increased costs (such as federal mandates).

Caller: personal health care situation

ER: programs available

RG: gives specific program information

Caller: malpractice. Capping lawsuits?

ER: caps in place in some states, in some of those insurance rates are lower, but Florida has caps and also has the highest insurance rates in nation. People can no longer chose venue of their case, also must have certificate of merit from physician before filing

Caller: property tax relief, will you increase sales tax to lower property tax

ER: current plan lowers property tax for seniors. Must do tax shifting, raise one tax and lower property tax. Sales tax most appropriate. Maybe raise the sales tax a full point

Caller: what are your political ambitions after your second term as governor is over?

ER: would love to be in a cabinet of a good pres, secretary of transportation or energy. No desire to run for president. Too hard to run for president

Caller: What is plan for PA to put high tech jobs in low income areas

ER: we need a whole mix of jobs. High incomes in high tech jobs. We can direct some of those jobs into low income areas.

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