OP-ED: Soaring health care costs are holding Delaware back. Here’s what we’re doing to fix them.

Op-ed by Rick Geisenberger, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Finance

Over the next several weeks, as we complete another budget debate in Dover, we should not lose sight of Delaware’s long-term challenges and of one issue in particular: the rising cost of health care.

The projected growth rate for state spending on health care services will more than double our expected growth rate in available revenue over the next two years. Next year alone, Delaware taxpayers will spend more than $1.3 billion on health care — primarily on state employee benefits and Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides insurance for low-income Delawareans, those with disabilities, and older residents that require long-term care.

In January, Governor Carney proposed a 2019 budget plan focused on investing in Delaware’s economy, in high-needs schools, and communities across our state. The governor’s budget proposal limits spending growth to 3.5 percent — an increase far below available revenue this year, and one that is sustainable over the long term.

But if we hope to continue making investments that matter, we cannot continue on our current path.

State spending on health care now accounts for more than 30 percent of the state’s budget. Simply put, the growth of state spending on health care crowds out investments in schools, communities, infrastructure, and our economy that would move our state forward.

And this is not an issue unique to state government. Health care spending severely strains the budgets of Delaware families and businesses up and down our state, limiting household spending and making it harder for companies to invest and create jobs.

A few statistics tell the tale:

Delaware’s health care spending per person exceeds the national average by more than 27 percent. Among states, only Alaska and Massachusetts spend more. And we’re not getting our money’s worth. Delaware ranks 30th in terms of overall health quality.

Workers’ contributions for health care have increased 40 percent since 2010, while Delaware wages have increased only 25 percent.
Health care spending per person has increased every year since 1991, even as our economy has grown and contracted through recession and recovery.

To be clear, health care is an important sector of Delaware’s economy, accounting for 12.5 percent of the state’s workforce, and thousands of jobs. But we cannot ignore concerns that health care costs are growing dramatically faster than other measures of economic growth.

To address these issues last year, the General Assembly enacted and Governor Carney signed House Joint Resolution 7, authorizing the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to establish a benchmark, with a growth rate for health care spending linked to growth in our overall economy. DHSS will select the methods to measure and report on the total cost of health care and identify metrics to measure and track spending and quality across our health care system.

Governor Carney established the Health Care Delivery and Cost Advisory Group to assist in this process and provide feedback to DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker.



The good news is that there is a great deal of consensus and energy about the importance of this work among Delaware’s purchasers and providers of health care services. But, understandably, some providers are concerned that, in the future, a benchmark might be used to set price controls or create spending caps on private health care spending.

To be clear, this is not at all the purpose for the benchmark.

Our goal is to provide additional price transparency and attention to the underlying costs and quality of health care delivery across the state. Delaware families and businesses deserve to know how much they are paying for health procedures, and what they’re getting for their money.

With better information, we can analyze and report on variations in cost and quality. We can make this data available to policymakers and health care providers so that everyone better understands the sources of cost growth. Most importantly, we can use this information to work collaboratively to address unwarranted variations in costs and quality.

As the state’s chief financial officer, I’m keenly aware of the importance of bending the health care cost curve to more closely align with public and private resources available to cover these costs. At the Delaware Department of Finance, we believe it’s critical that the process for setting health care benchmarks be verifiable, transparent, and independently generated. Dr. Walker already has engaged the health care community significantly in this effort and this commitment will continue.

The challenge presented by the growth of health care spending is a national problem. But many solutions will need to be local. Delaware’s size — and our history of working together to solve difficult problems — means we are uniquely equipped to bring all stakeholders to the table to address this challenge.

As Governor Carney has said, lowering health care costs while improving quality is the most important thing we can do for the future health of our economy, our citizens and our finances.

Click here to learn more about the health care spending benchmark.

Delaware Moving Forward to Implement Full-Scale Sports Gaming

Department of Finance, Delaware Lottery expect to launch in June

WILMINGTON, Del. The Delaware Department of Finance, in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, has determined that there are no legal obstacles to moving forward with full-scale sports betting in Delaware, including head-to-head-betting, which permits single-game wagering. Under state law passed in 2009, Delaware may authorize betting on professional and collegiate sports, with the exception of games involving Delaware-based teams.

The Department will begin training lottery and casino staff next week in preparation for a June launch of full-scale sports betting in Delaware. Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger issued the following statement on Thursday:

“Following Monday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and consultation with the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, we are confident that Delaware has the legal and regulatory authority to authorize sports gaming in Delaware. The Delaware Lottery has had plans in place for months, and we will begin training lottery and casino staff early next week. We will continue to provide public updates as we prepare to launch full-scale sports gaming in Delaware next month.”


Related news:
Governor Carney’s Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Sports Gaming

State of Delaware Employees Honored for Excellence and Commitment in State Service, Team Excellence, and Heroism

Event held during the celebration of Public Service Recognition Week, May 6-12, 2018.

WILMINGTON, Del. (May 11, 2018) —Governor John Carney and Cabinet members celebrated Public Service Recognition Week by applauding the extraordinary work of Delaware’s public servants. Awards for exemplary efforts in service to the State of Delaware were presented at the Governor’s Awards Ceremony: Recognizing State Employee Individuals, Teams and Heroes, hosted by the Department of Human Resources on Monday.

“Every day thousands of dedicated state employees are on the front lines protecting our communities, teaching our children, caring for our most vulnerable citizens and providing important services to all Delawareans,” said Governor Carney. “It is an honor to recognize those employees that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to their work and exemplify the best of what it means to provide public service.”

Nearly 200 attendees were on hand to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the nominees and recipients of the Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service, Governor’s Team Excellence Award, and Delaware Award for Heroism.

Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service
The Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service, established in 1990, is given to five State of Delaware employees, or groups of employees, who exemplify the highest standards of excellence and commitment in state service. Recipients of the 2018 award are:
• Ozden Basaran, and Mark Barrett, Department of Transportation/Department of Technology and Information
• Erika Bradley, Superior Court
• Kim C. Cloud, Department of Technology and Information
• Kyle Conner, Department of Finance
• Amanda A. McAtee, Office of Management and Budget

Governor’s Team Excellence Award
The Governor’s Team Excellence Award is presented annually to a team of six to 20 state employees and encourages teamwork by recognizing groups of state employees for their efforts to use continuous quality improvement tools to excel in leadership, team dynamics and communication to produce superior customer service and tangible results. The 2018 award recipient is the Dealer Portal Team from the Department of Transportation.

In addition, the following team finalists were recognized:
• The NVF – Yorklyn Project Team, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
• Southern Health Services 2nd Annual Drive-thru Influenza POD Leadership Planning Team, Department of Health and Social Services
• Small Wireless Facility Team, Department of Transportation
• Trauma Informed Care Committee, Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families

Delaware Award for Heroism
The Delaware Award for Heroism was established in 2013 to recognize state employees for acts of heroism and courage. The 2018 recipients are:
• Christie Bonniwell and Trevor McColley, Department of Transportation
• Stewart Douglass & Matthew Palsgrove, Department of Transportation
• Christie Ray, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
• Angela Riddle, Department of Health and Social Services
• Karol Ann Shyers and Brian Payton, Department of Correction
• Kristen Thornton, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
• Gabriel and Jessica Vorous, Department of Correction
• William Walker, Department of Correction
• Jamie Whitehouse, Department of Transportation
• Cpt. Patrick Sheets, Lt. Brian Forte, Lt. Bradford Apa, Lt. Benny Dotson, C/O Jesse Cohen, C/O Michael Dunston, C/O Larry Welch, C/O Brian Dorrell, C/O Jacob Stauber, and K9 Spencer Alexander, Department of Correction

“State employees are incredibly driven and committed to serving the people of Delaware,” said Saundra Ross Johnson, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Human Resources. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to recognize those who have gone above and beyond their usual level of excellence.”

Detailed information about the 2018 award recipients can be found on the State of Delaware’s Employee Recognition Program web page.

Governor Carney, Secretary Johnson and 2018 Honorees

Delaware Tax Filing Deadlines Approach

The Division of Revenue would like to remind Delawareans who have not yet filed their tax returns that the deadlines are quickly approaching. Delaware corporate income tax returns are due on or before April 17, and the personal income tax deadline is April 30.

Taxpayers who do not file by the deadline because they have a balance due may face additional interest and penalties, which increases the total amount owed. Filing by the deadline will allow you to avoid penalties, even if you are unable to pay all or some of your taxes by the deadline. Payment arrangements can be made by calling (302) 577-8785. If you can’t file your return by the deadline, you can request an extension of time to file – but remember, this is not an extension of time to pay.

To speed the process, take advantage of electronic filing, which will make filing your taxes both accurate and easy. Personal tax filing assistance is also available for individuals and families with disabilities, or households that meet certain income requirements. Visit de.gov/taxhelp for more information.

Top 100 Delinquent Taxpayer Lists Published

Delaware Division of Revenue Director Jennifer R. Hudson today announced the publication of the lists of the top 100 delinquent individual and business taxpayers to the State’s Delinquent Taxpayers website.

By statute, the Division of Revenue is required to post the names of the people and businesses who owe the most unpaid taxes to the state. The list includes the top 100 business taxpayers and 100 personal taxpayers who owe tax balances of more than $1,000, who were not on the last list that was published, and against whom the Division of Revenue has filed a judgment. Collectively, the businesses and individuals included on the lists owe more than $3.6 million to the State. Taxpayers who have entered into payment agreements with the Division of Revenue, who have filed for bankruptcy protection or who have a pending appeal of a proposed liability are excluded from the published lists.

“The Division of Revenue is committed to collecting all amounts that are owed to the State, and using all tools that are available to us to do so.” Hudson says. “While a large percentage of taxpayers resolve their liabilities to avoid having their names posted online, many others will wait until their names are actually posted online to resolve their accounts.”

Delaware is among the more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that publish delinquent taxpayers’ names online. If you have questions regarding the delinquent taxpayer lists, please contact the Delaware Division of Revenue’s Account Management Department at (302) 577-8785.