Corrections Secretary Focused on Outcomes

‘Corrections’ is a literal term for Secretary John Wetzel.  That’s why he told the House Appropriations Committee the Department of Corrections new recidivism study accounts for both re-incarcerations and rearrests.  “We need to focus our corrections system on outcomes, and our outcomes mean people getting out and doing the right thing,” Wetzel explains, “So that’s why our [recidivism] number is 62.7%, because it includes everything.” 

The numbers contained in the new report are being used as a baseline to improve the system moving forward.  Wetzel says their new contracts with private halfway houses will be performance based, with incentives for reducing recidivism.  Internally, he says improvement starts by better assessing offenders’ needs and better use of state & county-level diversionary programs. 

Between efficiencies that have already been identified and the new prison reforms signed into law last year, Wetzel projects a reduction of 3,600 state prison inmates over the next five years. 

That means additional prison closures are going to be a part of the budget conversation in Pennsylvania for many years to come.  And Secretary Wetzel is still dealing with the fallout from the recent decision to close SCI Greensburg and SCI Cresson later this year. 

State Rep. Deberah Kula called it a “debacle.”  Responding to Kula’s questions at Monday’s budget hearing, Wetzel said 85% of the affected employees have already accepted transfers within the system, and 80% of them will be stationed within 60-miles of their homes. 

Corrections Secretary John Wetzel

John Wetzel

“Not minimizing the impact it has on staff members… this is what saving money in corrections looks like,” Wetzel said in reference to inmate populations driving prison closures. 

Secretary Wetzel has committed to working with the House & Senate Judiciary committees to develop prison closure protocols moving forward.


Insurance Rate Shock Coming for Young, Healthy People

2014 could prove to be a tumultuous year for health insurance rates.  Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine said as much when answering questions from members of the state House Appropriations Committee this week. 

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine

Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine

Consedine says some segments of the population are likely to experience what he calls “rate shock,” upon full implementation of the Affordable Care Act next year.  “Ironically it’s most likely going to be young, healthy individuals who right now are getting the benefit of being young and healthy, and therefore that’s allowed in the underwriting process, and their premiums reflect that,” Consedine says.  “That rating formula goes away with the Affordable Care Act.” 

“You have it currently low for young people, and high for older and less healthy people,” Deputy Executive Insurance Commissioner Randy Rohrbaugh said, using a metaphorical seesaw analogy, “That seesaw changes.  Actually there will be winners and losers, and I think there’s going to be sticker shock on the side of the young, healthy people.” 

Sticker shock to the tune of 60% or more, Rohrbaugh estimates.

The theory, he says, is that any disruptions in health insurance rates will be short-lived.  However, he cautions that it could be a longer stabilization process should those young people opt-out of the health insurance system, and choose to take the penalty instead, under the Affordable Care Act. 

“It may take two or three years before that all will level through.”