Pennsylvania lawmakers have earmarked $100 million for mental health services. But they did not approve his expense.

Pennsylvania lawmakers packed their bags, turned off the lights and rushed out of Harrisburg on Tuesday, their work done for the year.

Coming out, our overpaid legislators passed a slew of bills, some of which are a testament to the good they can achieve when they put people before politics. Imagine what they could do if they worked harder and longer, like us ordinary people.

Because they refuse to work a full year, they leave big problems unsolved.

Here’s a look at some of the things that got done and didn’t get done.

Lawmakers addressed the growing problem of deadbeats who don’t pay their bills for driving on Pennsylvania’s turnpike.

House Bill 1486, if signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, would suspend more vehicle registrations for unpaid tolls.

The suspensions would be triggered after four unpaid tolls, or unpaid tolls totaling $250 or more, in the past five years. Current law sets a higher bar for suspensions: at least six unpaid tolls, or unpaid tolls totaling at least $500, in the past three years.

The threat of suspended registration scares many deadbeats into paying.

Over the past six years or so, the Turnpike Commission has collected $11.4 million in tolls and fees associated with 23,095 suspended registrations. The commission estimates that an additional 25,000 vehicle registrations could be suspended under the new legislation.

The bill was drafted by Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington. It has been edited to add fraud language. It originally focused on creating a Blue Star Family license plate, available to the families of active duty service members.

Senate Bill 225 aims to prevent health insurance companies from delaying necessary treatment with prior authorization and other requirements.

The bill, if signed by Wolf, would require insurers to respond to requests for prior authorization within two business days. Except for administrative reasons, refusals must be made by a qualified healthcare professional in the specialty.

Upon request, insurers must make a medical professional available for peer review with the doctor of a patient whose claim has been denied.

Doctors can also challenge an insurer’s requirement for “step therapy” or the use of less expensive treatments or drugs first.

The legislation would apply to private insurance and Medicaid. It was written by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York.

“I am grateful that my constituent – Dr. Suzette Song – has brought this issue to my attention so that we can address an issue that healthcare providers face every day that limits their ability to better treat their patients” , Hill said in a statement Tuesday. “Today is a big win for health care outcomes in Pennsylvania.”

Senate Bill 225 and House Bill 1486 passed the legislature unanimously. Why can’t legislators do such a good job more often? There is nothing wrong with a law like this. There are many more opportunities if lawmakers stop bickering and being mindlessly partisan.

Wolf will consider both bills, spokeswoman Beth Rementer told me Friday. I hope he will sign them. I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t.

Hill’s statement noted that his bill received final legislative approval “on the last day” of the legislative session.

This is not correct. But at least she was honest. The Legislative Assembly will no longer be doing work for the public this year.

Both the House and Senate are due to briefly return to session next month after the midterm elections, with the House for three days and the Senate for one.

There is no chance of anything significant happening. These sessions are reserved for handshakes and pats on the back, and for lawmakers losing their re-election bids to give farewell speeches.

If lawmakers suddenly find some work ethic on their break, here’s a big unfinished business they could tackle.

The budget they approved in July included an additional $100 million for mental health services. Not a penny has been spent because lawmakers haven’t allocated it yet.

Credit goes to WESA in Pittsburgh for first highlighting their failure.

It’s insulting. On Oct. 4, the state’s Behavioral Health Commission for Mental Health issued recommendations on how the money could be used.

He suggested $37 million be spent to retain and recruit healthcare professionals and support professional development within the workforce, which is overwhelmed with the need for services and prone to burnout.

He suggested that $23.5 million be spent on the criminal justice and public safety systems. The money could be used to expand programs that divert people to places where they can get help, instead of sending them to jail. And increasing telehealth services in prisons.

He suggested $39 million be spent on new 24-hour crisis centers, telehealth and other services.

Reviewing these recommendations and deciding how to spend the money should have been priorities for the final weeks of the legislative session. Lawmakers could have stayed longer to figure this out. They could also return to session for more than handshakes and farewell speeches after the election.

But that won’t happen. So people who need help won’t get it.

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or [email protected]

About Evelyn C. Heim

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