The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council was pared down to a skeleton crew after a political stalemate at the state Capitol allowed its funding to expire at midnight Monday. Thirty-eight workers were let go, leaving only five on the job at the councils privately leased downtown Harrisburg offices. Those employees were protecting the agency's property but they too were expected to be out at the close of business July 3.
Council spokesman Joe Martin said a team from the governor's Office of Administration served termination notices to the council's employees late Monday afternoon. Right now we are still hopeful that they are going to resolve the situation before they leave for the summer recess, which could begin as early as July 3, he said.
The agency, founded in 1986, monitors the cost and quality of the states healthcare system and issues periodic public reports on hospital practices and finances. Its annual budget is about $5 million.
The Republican-controlled state Senate has tied the councils reauthorization to an extension of a malpractice insurance subsidy for doctors.
But Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell wants to link the doctors' subsidy extension to his effort to expand health coverage for nearly 300,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians. The issue here is not the council or its work, said Rendell press secretary Chuck Ardo. The issue is the ancillary subject the Senate has added. -- by the Associated Press
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