For the Week Ending March 30, 2012
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee did not meet its goal to complete its review of the session’s premier health care reform bill (H.559) on Friday as had been expected due to several last minute amendments proposed by Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland District).
Meeting with barely a quorum due to the absence of two of its five members, the committee approved one Mullin amendment to add language from a bill introduced but not considered in the House (H.603) to require health insurers to implement standardized prior authorization procedures. Another amendment offered by Mullin to continue to allow an off-exchange insurance market failed by a 1-2 vote. The committee also disagreed with provider-authored language on medical malpractice offered by Mullin, agreeing instead to adopt malpractice provisions endorsed by the administration. Still on the table is a Mullin-offered amendment stating that brokers and agents may enroll individuals and small businesses on the exchange to the extent allowed by federal law when the exchange becomes effective in 2014. Work on that proposal and Mullin’s stated intent to offer another unspecified amendment led the committee to conclude it could not finish Friday and to come back Monday morning to finish its work.
Once its work on H.559 is finished, the Health and Welfare Committee will devote the remainder of this week to House-passed bills, including telemedicine (H.37) and changes to the state prescription drug monitoring system (H.745).
The Senate Finance Committee, meanwhile, held hearings last week on H.559 in anticipation of the bill’s referral from Health and Welfare. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont told the committee Friday that it should consider allowing an off-exchange market operating under the same rules as the exchange for a two-year period beyond the 2014 exchange effective date. This would allow individuals and small businesses an option to enroll directly with health plans for that period, rather than requiring enrollment through an exchange mechanism that has not yet been designed and tested. The committee will continue its H.559 discussions this week.
The House Health Care Committee focused on the state’s requirements for child immunizations last week, struggling with a decision over whether to remove a “philosophical” exemption to the statute requiring all children be immunized before enrolling in school or day care. The controversial issue even has Governor Peter Shumlin at odds with his public health commissioner. Shumlin prefers retaining the exemption as long as there is a signed statement from a physician saying the parents have been educated on the importance of vaccines. A vote on this bill in committee could take place as early as Tuesday. The committee intends to turn its attention to a Senate-passed bill (S.223) requiring private health insurance coverage for medically-necessary services for early childhood development disorders, including autism.
A bill requiring health insurers to reimburse midwives (H.777) is in the Judiciary Committee awaiting its review of malpractice insurance issues. The bill would exempt midwives from insurer contract requirements for a two year period to allow time for the midwives to obtain affordable liability insurance. The bill was referred to Judiciary from the House floor over concerns about liability. The committee is scheduled to take up the bill Tuesday.
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 email@example.com