For the Week Ending January 11, 2013
The Vermont General Assembly convened its 2013 legislative session last Wednesday and immediately set to work after seating members, electing leadership, and assigning committee membership. Democrats once again dominate both legislative chambers and join second-term Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin for another two-year stint running state government.
Shumlin delivered his inaugural address on Thursday, focusing attention on education reform and its role in job creation. Rep. Shap Smith was re-elected to the powerful House speakership and he reappointed all of the last biennium’s committee chairmen to their posts for the next two years ensuring a rerun of the smooth-running House operation.
Last year’s chair and nine members of the 11-member House Health Care Committee were returned to their posts on the committee responsible for health care reform. The committee will initiate work on a “technical corrections” or housekeeping bill to make adjustments to the state’s 2014 health insurance purchasing exchange project. The committee will also consider strategies to address the problem of Catamount and VHAP members who will see greater out-of-pocket costs when they leave those programs and go through the new exchange.
Other issues individual committee members identified as issues include a new consumer role before the Green Mountain Care Board regulatory process funded by per-life assessments on insurers, elimination of the Catamount employer assessment when the Catamount program expires, reform financing, and provider malpractice.
This week, the committee will continue a series of overviews from interested parties that began last week.
Senate president pro temp John Campbell was also re-elected without opposition Wednesday after fending off an intraparty challenge from Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ann Cummings at a party caucus in December. The Senate gained a negative reputation over the last two-year session as a dysfunctional institution. Campbell promised to make changes to his leadership style and last week he and the Senate committee on committees made major changes to Senate leadership by appointing six new committee chairs and elevating the chamber’s most liberal members to new positions of power. Democrat/Progressive Sen. Tim Ashe replaces Cummings as chair of the Finance Committee and liberal Democrat Sen. Philip Baruth was appointed majority leader.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee membership is not immune from a leftward tilt in the 2013-2014 Senate. The two new members of the five-member committee are known to be supporters of left-leaning policies to the degree that returning chair Sen. Claire Ayer commented on that fact. The committee identified many human services issues among its priorities as it awaits the reform technical corrections bill from the House. Mental health, developmental services, respite care and medical malpractice were among the issues individual committee members cited as interests.
This week, the committee will receive overviews and updates on health care reform, the Green Mountain Care Board and state agencies.
New Bills of Interest:
H.10 Introduced by Representative Mook of Bennington
This bill proposes to require health insurers to provide coverage for hearing aids and to direct the Green Mountain Care Board to consider including coverage for hearing aids as part of Green Mountain Care.
H.12 Introduced by Representative Wizowaty of Burlington
This bill proposes to require health insurance plans, including Medicaid, to provide coverage for all health services, including complementary and alternative treatments, if at least two studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals find such services to be safe, to be directly related to statistically significant improvements in individuals’ health status, and to reduce associated medical costs.
H.15 Introduced by Representative Donahue of Northfield
This bill proposes to reorganize the mental health statutes in the Vermont Statutes Annotated.
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