For the Week Ending April 20, 2012
Hopes for an end of April adjournment slipped away last week as legislative leaders conceded that May fourth or fifth would be the earliest they would be able to wrap up the 2012 session. The Senate will reconvene Monday afternoon to try to work through a growing backlog of bills, including the general fund appropriations or “big bill” and the session’s key health care reform initiative, H.559.
The Senate Finance Committee adopted twenty mostly minor amendments to H.559 before advancing the bill to the Appropriations Committee and the Senate floor. Finance agreed that independent insurance brokers may continue to serve small businesses after the health insurance exchange becomes operational in 2014 by facilitating enrollment on benefit plans through the exchange and by helping small businesses apply for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions through the exchange. The committee also agreed to compromise language governing health plan pre-authorization for Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock to require the administration’s financing plan for a universal coverage plan, Green Mountain Care, be completed prior to this November’s election. The vote on Brock’s proposal fell along party lines with the committee’s five Democrats voting no and Brock and the other Republican on the committee supporting the earlier date for the report. H.559 will be debated before the full Senate this week.
A bill (H.37) requiring health insurers to pay for certain services delivered through telemedicine gained preliminary Senate approval on Friday, but not before questions were raised about the cost impact of the requirement. That discussion will continue before a vote on final approval this week.
The House passed a controversial bill (H.777) that would temporarily exempt licensed midwives from health plan requirements that they have malpractice insurance, but the fate of the bill remains unclear. The bill has not met a legislative deadline so the bill will require the Senate Rules Committee to make an unlikely exception to allow Senate consideration. In response, the House Health Care Committee decided last week to attach the House bill to a Senate bill (S.200) the committee was working on to circumvent the need for Senate Rules approval. The maneuver would have put the midwives proposal before the Senate for action, but the House committee Friday reversed that decision under pressure from House leadership.
Although the House committee decided against amending S.200 with the midwives exemption, they did agree to amend S.200 with provisions contained in other House bills, however. The committee also added provisions contained in other House bills including restrictions on pharmacy audits conducted by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and a requirement for health insurer direct payments to ambulance providers. The original Senate-passed version required health insurers to report claims denial data and other claims-related information. The House committee added to the topics covered in the reporting requirement by including health plan executive and board salaries, legal and marketing expenditures, as well as a long list of other items.
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.