Working poor Pennsylvanians who cannot afford health insurance didn't get any help from Harrisburg lawmakers this week, but their furry friends did.
Gov. Rendell's health plan to expand coverage to thousands of the uninsured flat-lined in the face of Republican Senate leaders' refusal to budge from their hold-the-line stance on spending. But puppy-loving lawmakers found a way to tighten regulations for conditions at commercial dog kennels.
Among the new requirements: veterinary care for kennel dogs every six months. Now, dogs could have better access to regular checkups than the 767,000 people without insurance. What does it say about Harrisburg that dogs got more help than people?
That's not the only way the state appears to be going to the dogs, either. Tangled up in the dispute between the governor and Senate was the reauthorization of the state's watchdog agency on health-care quality, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). Legislators wouldn't extend its charter beyond Nov. 30 barring an agreement with Rendell on another health-related issue - insurance subsidies for doctors and hospitals.
So that imperils an independent state agency that tracks health-care costs and quality - and, with it, Pennsylvania's standing in the forefront of public reporting on hospital care, in particular.
The agency's annual surveys of treatments for a range of illnesses and conditions serve as an important means of spurring improvements in care. Hospital officials often chafe under PHC4 reports and - what do you know? - they did little to help break the logjam over the uninsured, thus sealing PHC4's fate. Now Rendell must step in with another temporary reprieve.