For the Week Ending February 1, 2013
House Republicans held a news conference last week to accuse the Shumlin administration of not complying with provisions of Act 48 that required the Secretary of Administration to recommend a long financing plan for the state’s universal coverage, single-payer health plan. The administration released a report the previous week prepared by consultants that laid out possible revenue sources for a single-payer health care system but not a final plan. House Republican leaders claimed the state paid the consultants $300,000 for a report without a recommendation and asked the administration to release a final recommendation within 15 days.
Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding called the Republican action a “stunt” and said the Act 48 provision was written into law when the state expected to enact a single-payer system sooner than 2017, the earliest date that the state now believes it is allowed to move to a new system under federal law.
Also last week, administration officials appeared before the House Health Care Committee to describe the Governor’s budget proposal in greater detail. The budget proposal includes state funding to establish state premium and cost sharing subsidies for low income Vermonters purchasing coverage through the individual and small group exchange. Those subsidies would be in addition to federal subsidies on the exchange established under the federal Affordable Care Act. The Governor’s budget proposal also would increase Medicaid reimbursement for providers by three percent annually. The administration proposes to fund the budget expenditures by continuing an employer assessment originally created to finance subsidies for the state’s Catamount Health plan for the uninsured, and a one percent increase in an existing assessment on insurer medical claims. The committee also heard from stakeholders --insurers, business groups, and advocates – about their thoughts on the budget proposal.
The Senate Finance Committee will initiate a bill to improve the process for state regulation and approval of health insurer rate filings after hearing from Green Mountain Care Board Chair Anya Rader-Wallach and DFR Commissioner Susan Donegan about the difficulties in the year-old process that was created under Act 48. Rader-Wallach and Donegan agreed to present their recommendation to the committee “within a week or so.”
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee devoted an entire week to committee hearings and an evening public hearing on a “death with dignity” bill. The bill would allow physicians to issue prescriptions for those at the end of life. Sometimes referred to as “physician assisted suicide,” the controversial bill was approved unanimously and will now be considered by the Judiciary Committee.
This week, the House Health Care Committee plans to decide on a recommendation to the Appropriations Committee on the administration’s exchange premium and cost-sharing budget proposals followed by decisions on funding recommendations the following week. The committee in the coming weeks will also address administration proposals to make changes and adjustments to the exchange. Committee Chair Rep. Mike Fisher introduced those bills (H.107 and H.116) last week.
New Bills of Interest
H.107 Introduced by Representative Fisher of Lincoln
This bill proposes to repeal the Catamount Health, Catamount Health Assistance, and Vermont Rx programs. It would also make minor technical and clarifying amendments to laws regarding health insurance, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, VPharm, and the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange.
H.114 Introduced by Representative Till and others
This bill proposes to remove the religious and philosophical exemptions for immunization against pertussis and to require an adult working in a school or child care facility to keep his or her immunization against pertussis current.
H.116 Introduced by Representative Fisher of Lincoln
This bill proposes to transfer authority over certain health care administration initiatives from the department of financial regulation to the Green Mountain Care Board and the department of health, create a regulatory and supervision fund for the Green Mountain Care Board, expand the topics to be included in the Green Mountain Care Board’s annual report, and require professional licensing boards to collect data for health care workforce development planning purposes.
H.118 Introduced by Representative Poirier of Barre City and others
This bill proposes to repeal the quarterly Health Care Fund contribution assessed on employers for each employee without health care coverage.
H.123 Introduced by Representative Dickinson of St. Albans Town and others
This bill proposes to allow a licensed physician to prescribe, administer, or dispense long-term antibiotic therapy for the purpose of eliminating or controlling a patient’s Lyme disease or other tick-borne illness; and requires health insurance benefit plans to provide coverage for the therapy.
H.136 Introduced by Representative Till and others
This bill proposes to prohibit health insurers from imposing cost-sharing requirements for colorectal cancer screenings and mammograms and to clarify that health insurance plans must cover both the preventive screening and all associated services at no additional charge to the insured.
H.138 Introduced by Representative Till and others
This bill proposes to suspend the philosophical and religious exemptions for a specific required vaccine if the immunization rate at a school for that vaccine falls below a 90 percent threshold.
H.147 Introduced by Representative Poirier and others
This bill proposes to create an Office of Health Care Consumer Protection to represent the interests of the public in matters relating to health care, including health insurers, health insurance plans, public health benefit programs, and the activities of the Green Mountain Care Board.
H.148 Introduced by Representative Clarkson of Woodstock and others
This bill proposes to require all health insurance plans to provide dental and vision coverage for children and adults.
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