For the Week Ending April 13, 2012
The Senate Finance Committee will continue its mark-up Tuesday of the session’s major health reform initiative (H.559) that seeks to merge Vermont’s individual and small group health insurance markets, establish the parameters of a federally-required health insurance purchasing exchange beginning in 2014, and implements a variety of other measures including the Green Mountain Care Board’s authority over hospital and insurer rate regulation. The committee had hoped to complete its mark-up and vote on the bill last Friday, but end-of-session scheduling conflicts delayed those decisions until this week.
The committee this week must decide whether it will recommend the individual and small group markets only operate through the exchange or if an off-exchange market will be allowed; whether the markets should be merged into one pool; and whether the definition of small groups should remain 50 employees or less or be increased to include groups of 100 employees or less.
The committee last week considered the role of independent insurance agents in serving the small groups in the new market beginning in 2014, standards for insurer requirements for prior authorizations, out-of-pocket limits for health plan prescription drug benefits, and other issues. The committee appears supportive of a Health and Welfare Committee amendment to the bill ensuring broker services in assisting small groups to enroll through the exchange and to advise clients on tax credits available on the exchange. Brokers and insurers testified to the valuable role brokers play in advising small group employers.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill (H.37) requiring health insurers to reimburse providers for services delivered through telemedicine. The committee decided not to expand the bill’s definition of telemedicine beyond its intended use for a specialist to evaluate a patient from a remote primary care office, but did opt for a study of an expansion in response to a request from Planned Parenthood.
The House Health Care Committee last week approved a Senate-passed bill (S.223) to expand the scope of a recently-enacted autism mandate to include all early childhood developmental disorders. The committee voted to amend the bill to increase the age-range covered to include birth to age 21.
The House Committee also passed other Senate bills including a bill (S.209) requiring insurers to consider naturopathic physicians as primary care providers and allow their participation in the Blueprint program, and a bill (S.222) related to Catamount Health subsidies for individuals in employer-sponsored assistance plans. The committee will continue to work this week on Senate bills requiring enhanced reporting for insurers participating on the health exchange (S.200) and a bill (S.197) requiring hospitals to notify patients in hospital-acquired physician practices that they may be subject to increased out-of-pocket expenses due to facility charges.
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on a bill (H.777) temporarily relieving licensed midwives of an insurance contract requirement that they carry liability insurance for a two-year period. The bill was referred to the committee from the House floor over member concerns about the exemption. The committee voted to return the bill to the House floor without recommendation.
And finally, the House has returned a controversial bill (S.199) to the Senate with an amendment to reverse the Senate recommendation. The Senate had passed the bill to remove a philosophical exemption allowing parents to forgo a state requirement that children have all their recommended vaccinations before enrolling in schools or licensed day cares. The House put the exemption back in and instead called for more education to stem the slide in the vaccination rates. The Senate is now likely to ask for a conference committee.
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