Key Takeaways from Department of Health Hearing
HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Department of Health (DOH). Here are the key takeaways from the day:

Acting Health Secretary refuses to say deadly nursing home order was a mistake:

· Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam refused to say whether or not the administration’s order putting COVID-19-positive patients back in nursing homes from hospitals was a mistake. In a line of questioning from Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny) Beam repeatedly made excuses for the nursing order, including referring to non-binding federal guidance, but refused to admit it was a mistake despite roughly half of all Pennsylvania COVID-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

DOH cannot provide explanation on vaccination phase 1A expansion:

· In responding to questions from Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks) Beam could not provide an explanation as to why the department adhered to federal guidelines expanding Phase 1A of vaccinations when they knew there would not be enough supply to accommodate the new eligibilities.

Secretary struggles with the truth on nursing home vaccination numbers:

· Beam noted not all nursing home residents and staff wanting a vaccine have received one, as Gov. Wolf claimed at a Tuesday press conference. Instead, as Beam noted, only those skilled nursing facilities participating in the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program have received their vaccinations.

· First, in response to a line of questioning from Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester), Beam clarified not all nursing home and long-term care facility residents and staff have received their vaccinations as was previously claimed.

· Later, responding to a line of questioning from Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter), Beam noted there are 50 skilled nursing facilities not participating in the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program and that outreach to those facilities continues.

It is certainly somewhat of a pattern:

· When asked why the governor’s budget eliminates or reduces a total of $13.41 million in funding for health treatment services for various diseases, which have historically had long-standing bipartisan support, Beam responded that, “there is somewhat of a pattern here.” She indicated support in restoring these widely supported services.

· Yesterday, in response to questions regarding cuts to similarly supported programs in the Department of Agriculture’s budget, Secretary Russel Redding admitted that, “it’s a dance” and said “we will work with you to have them restored.” There certainly does seem to be a pattern here.

Appropriations Committee
House Republican Caucus
Pennslyvania House of Representatives