For the Week Ending February 17, 2012
The House Health Care Committee voted 8-2-1 late Thursday afternoon in favor of an amended version of H.559 after weeks of testimony and deliberation on the session’s most significant health care reform initiative. The amended bill contains legislative directives governing state-specific construction of the health insurance exchange required by federal law, including a requirement that all benefit plans for individuals and small groups employing less than 50 employees be purchased through the exchange, that the exchange benefit options include lower-cost bronze plans in addition to the more generous silver, gold and platinum, a merger of the individual and small group markets (including the safety-net pool) into one pool, and a decision that the state won’t pursue an off-exchange basic health plan option to cover Vermonters with incomes between 133 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
The final committee vote came after consideration of several members proposed attaching other bills to H.559. Controversial proposals or issues requiring testimony were passed over, but the committee agreed to add provisions expanding the duties of the Joint Legislative Health Access Oversight Committee, addressing protocols for school sports injuries, an amendment to an existing prescribed products law, and an extension for a work group on claims edit standards.
Passed over were proposals deemed too controversial for H.559 but worthy of further consideration, including a prohibition on health plan mental health carve-outs, a VPIRG-sponsored bill to require enhanced insurer reporting on public websites, a bill requiring parity for primary mental health services, and a bill requiring payment for telemedicine. A proposal to amend last year’s midwives mandate was also delayed.
Prior to the final afternoon mark-up, brokers were invited to react to a proposal by committee chairman Rep. Michael Fisher to require broker fees be a direct transaction between the employer and the broker rather than including those costs in health insurer premium bills. The committee determined the issue was too involved to include as part of H.559, but they agreed that it should be considered later.
H.559 was referred Friday to the House Appropriations Committee for its consideration of the fiscal impact on the state budget of a provision in the bill to limit prescription drug out-of-pocket costs in health benefit plans. The full House is scheduled to consider H.559 on Thursday and Friday of this week.
The House Health Care Committee swiftly scheduled hearings for Tuesday on some of the passed over proposals, including the telemedicine proposal (H.37), the midwives proposal, and the insurer enhanced reporting proposal (H.534). The Senate Health and Welfare Committee scheduled a Tuesday hearing on the Senate version of the insurer enhanced reporting proposal (S.200).
Also last week, the Senate committee completed its consideration of a House-passed bill (H.630) to restructure the state’s community mental health system in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. The committee voted the measure out of committee affirmatively Friday morning.
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