For the Week Ending January 20, 2012
The House Health Care Committee this week intends to consider and act on less controversial sections of the administration’s 2012 health care proposal (H.559) relating to the Green Mountain Care board’s authority to approve insurer rates, hospital budgets, and certificate of need requests (CON). The committee hopes to be able to make final decisions on those parts of the bill before moving on to other sections.
Administration officials and the chair of the Green Mountain Care board appeared before the House committee and the Senate Health and Welfare committee separately and in joint sessions last week to explain the provisions contained in H.559. The legislature must make statutory changes to the state’s health insurance laws this year to comply with federal law creating state-based exchanges in 2014. H.559 also proposes revisions to law passed last year in Act 48 governing the independent Green Mountain Care board created to oversee all aspects of health care in Vermont and the design and implementation of a universal coverage system by 2017.
The independence of the GMC board came into question last week when the board reversed its plan to seek help in communicating with the public under criticism from Governor Peter Shumlin and others. Shumlin, who regularly criticized the previous administration for its use of public relations positions in his former post as the Senate president pro temp, asked the board to reconsider its decision. The board reluctantly decided to retract the advertisement and regroup. Republican members of legislative committees meeting last week asked pointed questions of GMC board chair Anya Rader Wallack when she appeared at a joint session to discuss the board’s work plan for the year. Wallack noted that Republican leaders had also criticized the board’s plan, not just the governor.
The House Health Care Committee plan is to complete its work on H.559 by February 10th. The committee must make several key decisions about the exchange included in H.559 to merge the individual and small group markets, expand the definition of small group to include up to 100 lives, and whether or not to allow the sale of benefit plans outside the exchange. Other insurance-related provisions in H.559 propose prohibiting any insurer from including a discretionary clause in health insurance contracts, prohibiting health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers from imposing an annual limit on prescription drug benefits, and allowing the GMC board to adopt emergency rules regarding insurance rate review and hospital budget review.
Also this week, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee will begin hearings on S.199, a bill that proposes to extend the termination date of the immunization pilot program and remove the exemption from immunization on philosophical grounds. The committee is also planning on taking up prescription drug diversion, substance abuse treatment, and other bills.
The Senate Finance Committee this week begins an overview of the health insurance markets as an introduction to the exchange and other requirements of the federal reform laws. The Finance Committee will review the exchange and insurance provisions of any health care reform legislation this year.
The House Human Services Committee continues its work this week on reconfiguring the state’s mental health care system. The initiative was prompted by the state’s decision to change the way it delivers care for Vermont’s most seriously mentally ill due to the loss of the state hospital after the destruction of the hospital facility during Hurricane Irene. The plan is to build a new facility with fewer beds and utilize more community-based services.
If you are interested in this week’s Legislative Committee Meeting schedules, agendas, and a listing of other meetings and activities, please visit the Vermont Legislature’s website at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/Committee01.cfm Committee meetings are normally updated daily, and are subject to change without notice. If you plan on attending, you may want to call ahead to verify the agenda.
For more information on legislative proposals, visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont website at www.bcbsvt.com or call Leigh Tofferi at (802) 223-6131 or Kathy Parry at (802) 371-3205. If you wish to discontinue receiving these updates or know of anyone else who would like to receive it, please call Kathy Parry or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org