Professionals and maternal health advocates hope this will expand access to doula services for people who may not otherwise be able to afford them out-of-pocket, and ultimately help close racial disparities in maternal and infant outcomes.
“People were already afraid, specifically Black birthing people, were afraid of giving birth,” said Gerria Coffee, president of the Pennsylvania Doula Commission. “Then the pandemic really expanded that fear and it really exposed gaps in access to support.”
Doulas who have or will get state certification in perinatal care can enroll in Medicaid to partner with managed care organizations that oversee and administer Medicaid health insurance in local communities.
The managed care organizations will pay doulas for in-network services that they provide as members of a maternity care team or service, according to a bulletin from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
Coffee said the new partnership pathway is still in preliminary stages, so exact details on billing and payment structures will be explained in upcoming training sessions.
“This is completely new,” she said. “The majority of us have never done this before, and so we want to make sure that we have all the information available.”
Reimbursement is an important factor in the equation, Coffee said, because doulas need to know that their work is being valued for the time and expertise it takes to provide these services.
Hedway has been working full time as a doula and lactation consultant since last year. Making sure she’s able to meet demand in her community and make enough money has been difficult, she said.
“I quickly found out it is not the most sustainable thing, and it should be,” Hedway said.
Hedway said the new opportunity with the state’s Medicaid program could provide some financial stability or supplementation for doulas like herself.
While many remain optimistic about the new opportunity, Coffee said a lot of doulas still have some reservations about what the partnerships will entail and how receptive medical providers will be in working with doulas on these care teams.
It won’t be for everyone, Coffee said. For those who do participate, she hopes it leads to better support for both doulas and the communities they serve.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court says GOP subpoena for voter information over 2020 election ‘unenforceable’
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that state GOP subpoenas for voter information after the 2020 election are “unenforceable,” overturning a lower court ruling.
Republican Pennsylvania Senate lawmakers moved to subpoena voter information in 2021, but the state’s Democratic attorney general legally challenged the effort and argued the real purpose of the subpoenas was to bring 2020 election results into question.
The Supreme Court threw out the subpoenas on procedural grounds Wednesday, declaring they are no longer valid because the legislative session has ended.
Pennsylvania Republicans argued at the time voting took place to issue the subpoenas for voter information that they were intended to investigate possible changes to election law. State Sen. Cris Dush (R), who led the effort, labeled it an “election integrity investigation” that would “uncover information which is necessary for the legislature to potentially take future legislative action.”
President Biden defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the Keystone State in 2020.
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A deficit of experienced voting officials could mean trouble for Pa.’s 2024 election
High turnover risks an increase in mistakes
Some departures, like Feaser’s, were retirements. But regardless of their reason for leaving, data and case studies bear out the intuitive notion that the less experience a county has in its election office, the more errors are likely to occur.
Errors such as instructing voters to vote for the wrong number of candidates, candidates or races being left off the ballot, or improper ballot return instructions have been increasing since 2019.
Four of the five counties with the most ballot and administrative errors since 2019 — as identified through research by Votebeat, Spotlight PA, and the Open Source Election Technology Institute — also were among the counties with the highest turnover.
County and state election officials agreed this past fall that the sharp increase in ballot errors seen in 2023 was due to election official turnover.
And in Luzerne County, where a ballot paper shortage in the 2022 midterm elections prompted outcry from residents and national scrutiny, an investigation by the district attorney determined turnover and the staff’s inexperience were at the heart of the issue.
Luzerne’s most recent director, Eryn Harvey, who returned to the director position in 2023 after that debacle, is departing, leaving the office again with an acting director as it heads into the primary.
“If you’ve never worked in an election, it is difficult to come in that office,” Feaser said.
Feaser’s replacement, deputy Chris Spackman, had the benefit of working closely with Feaser over the past two years, knowing he would be the director when Feaser retired. Other counties are adopting this peer-mentoring strategy as well.
In Snyder County, the former long-time director Patricia Nace has been brought back in a consultant role to help advise Devin Rhoads, the new election director who began in May. Rhoads said she has helped fill in gaps in his knowledge.
When Rhoads first began, there was a lot to learn, and the information coming from the Department of State wasn’t always clear because it contained abbreviations that new directors might not understand.
“Sometimes I wish it would be more like a cookbook,” he said. “So that’s one of the hardest things is we’re just new to this and we don’t know what all these abbreviations and things mean.”
But, since May, things have improved. The Department of State is also tapping into the hands-on experience of election administrators to provide support. It recently hired Dori Sawyer, an election director with roughly two and a half years of experience from Montgomery County, to lead training for new directors.
“I think they finally realized, ‘Oh my, we have all these new people and they don’t know what to do,’” Rhoads said. He recently joined the state’s trainings on its voter roll management system and mail ballot applications.
Schmidt said the department established its training unit to help with transferring institutional knowledge, and it hired a former election director because they wanted someone “who’s been in the trenches” that “can speak from experience.”
In addition to the training unit, the department has created a calendar for directors that identifies pre- and post-election duties and deadlines for 2024, released a new version of its ballot review checklist for counties to use as a resource, and bolstered its county liaison program, among other initiatives.
Schmidt said in his experience he has found that directors are invested in running elections right in all counties because they understand that errors will give “bad actors” something to take advantage of. Schmidt, a Republican, was a city commissioner in Philadelphia during the 2020 election, and achieved national prominence for pushing back against Trump’s claims of fraud.
Still, there is room for improvement. Boockvar, who now runs a consultancy on election security, said the legislature should act to provide more resources for training and provide better standards for universal practices like poll worker training and pre-election equipment testing.
Pennsylvania Monthly Home Listings Down Nearly 20% Compared to January 2023
LEMOYNE, Pa., Feb. 21, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The median home sales price in Pennsylvania was $198,102 in January, up 2.4% year over year, according to a report prepared for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. However, the price fell about 7.5% compared to December 2023.
“Home prices remained steady throughout last year and we expect to see the same in 2024, which means homeowners are seeing positive results on their investment in a home,” said PAR President Preston Moore.
Listings dropped nearly 20% compared to the same time last year. There were 29,150 listings reported in January, similar to the number of listings in December.
“The real estate market often sees a bit of a seasonal shift during the winter months, with the inclement weather,” Moore noted. “With mortgage rates falling slightly, we typically can expect to see activity pick up in the spring.”
There were 6,790 sales in January, down about 3.4% from January 2023. Sales fell about 27% from the 8,996 sales in December.
“The lower number of sales reflects the lower inventory levels seen in many markets across the commonwealth,” he said. “There are many potential homebuyers in the market, however the challenge continues to be finding a home that meets their needs.”
“Most consumers work with a Realtor®, because they recognize that technology is no substitute for an expert who can help them navigate the homebuying and selling transaction,” Moore added.
The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® is a trade/professional association that serves more than 39,000 members in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Association of Realtors
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