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New state provision aims to get health care providers to avoid work stoppages

Matt Rourke

On today’s episode of The Confluence: A new state provision says health care providers can’t receive Medicaid funds from insurers if there has been a work stoppage at the facility in the last five years, unless workers have since unionized or there’s a “labor peace agreement"; the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources wants to attract more people to the outdoors, and is targeting communities that have historically been excluded or lack resources to engage in outdoor activities; and we preview March Madness and look back on previous tournaments hosted in the city. 

New state provision aims to steer hospitals away from work stoppages
(0:00 - 6:52)

New contract language drafted by Gov. Tom Wolf's administration could prohibit healthcare providers from receiving Medicaid dollars if they had a work stoppage in the last five years, unless their workers have subsequently unionized or contracted a “labor peace agreement” with a union.

The contracts are being negotiated now and would go into effect this summer.

“The argument is, hospitals, medical providers who have [had] a lot of labor trouble in their past … pose a potential threat to patients in terms of disruptions,” explains WESA government and accountability editor Chris Potter. “If the staff walks out, you maybe can't go in for your appointment that day, and so this is an attempt, the administration says, to prevent that from happening.”

Supporters include Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which is the largest union representing health care workers in Pennsylvania.

Hospitals are concerned, especially because on average, Medicaid provides 15% of a hospital’s revenue. For hospitals in more rural areas serving older populations, that percentage of revenue can be even higher.

The state Department of Human Services has said despite this provision, it will help hospitals serving a larger share of Medicaid patients stay in operation.

There are more than three million Pennsylvanians on Medicaid, many of whom are poor or have an income just above the poverty level.

The state has appointed its first director of outdoor recreation
(6:58 - 14:58)

The weather is warming up, which means those looking to venture to a state park might already be planning excursions and securing permits.

What effort is the state making to attract new visitors, and retain longtime ones, to the parks?

“While we do emphasize serving and being welcoming to all Pennsylvanians, we understand that there are populations that are less served and have been disenfranchised over time by outdoor recreation management, by environmental management,” says Nathan Reigner, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources first director of outdoor recreation.

Those populations include Black, indigenous and other people of color, and Reigner says the department is working to make parks more accommodating to people in those communities. Such efforts include improving signage, and integrating more stories about Black and indigenous communities that have historically lived in and around certain parks into programming.

“My job is to ensure and expand the benefits of outdoor recreation for all Pennsylvanians, as individuals, as communities and as a commonwealth outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania,” says Reigner. “It's a $12 billion industry, employs 150,000 people. I don't think we realize how big and important outdoor recreation is to the state.”

The department manages 121 state parks. 2.2 million acres of forest land. DCNR says it saw a rise in visitors to about 47 million in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.

Reigner says visitation declined slightly in 2021, but more important is the decade-long growth in participation and interest in outdoor recreation, beginning 2010.

“A role that I play in all of this,” he says, “ is helping to coordinate the outdoor recreation sector to make sure that our projects are complementary, to make sure that all users’ interests are reflected within our outdoor recreation system.”

March Madness is kicking off this weekend in Pittsburgh
(15:02 - 22:30)

For the fourth time in the last 10 years, and sixth time overall, Pittsburgh is hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Also today and Saturday, the semifinals and championship of the NCAA Women’s Division 3 tournament will be here in Pittsburgh.

Two double-headers will be played Friday, and then another two games on Sunday.

Sean Gentille, senior writer for The Athletic, says he has attended championship games five out of six times the city has hosted March Madness, starting in 1997.

He says the most exciting event he can recall was Coppin State University’s win over South Carolina State University in ‘97, led by coach Fang Mitchell.

“It was a major upset, the kind of thing that we've gotten more accustomed to seeing over the last 10 years or so,” says Gentille. “But, back then, it was uncommon stuff, fifteen over two seeds rarely happened and it was a sight.”

For this year’s championships, the city is hosting eight teams, though Gentille says the main attraction is sure to be 102-year-old Sister Jean, the chaplain for Loyola of Chicago.

“She is the borderline legendary nun from Loyola Chicago, who is thankfully still with us. She was a staple of Loyola's major run through the tournament a few years ago, and she's back.”

Gentille says he predicts the Villanova University team is the one to watch as the championship kicks off.

Tipoff is at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, between Ohio State University and Loyola of Chicago at PPG Paints Arena.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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