For the Week Ending February 15, 2013
The Vermont Press Bureau reported Saturday that Gov. Peter Shumlin and top House and Senate leaders will propose a nine-person committee to come up with a financing plan for the state’s single-payer health care plan. The newspaper report quoted the governor saying it is still premature to say what tax he would use to fund the new system.
Republicans had criticized the administration for failing to include a financing plan in a report to the legislature earlier this session as required by law. A provision in Act 48 required the administration to provide the legislature with a plan to finance a single-payer universal coverage health plan called Green Mountain Care in 2017. Instead, the administration’s report that was developed by consultants laid out potential sources of revenue but did not include a recommendation.
According to the news account, the new panel will include two appointees each from the governor, the speaker of the house and the senate president pro temp. Those three would jointly fill the remaining three seats. The report would not release an official financing recommendation until 2015.
In other activity in the capitol last week, the Senate was consumed with a lengthy debate over a controversial “death with dignity” bill and eventually approved a watered-down version of the proposal. The bill will now go to the House where supporters of the legislation believe they have a good chance for restoring some of the provisions removed by the Senate action.
Also, the House Health Care Committee continued its hearings on what level of subsidy the state should provide low-income Vermonters to augment federal subsidies for lower-income individuals purchasing their health care benefits through a new “exchange” beginning in 2014. The administration’s original proposal to add a 1.5 percent state premium subsidy through an advance tax credit and enhanced cost sharing assistance was withdrawn and a new smaller proposal was offered after it became known that the federal government would not match the proposed state subsidies as anticipated. The committee will decide this week on what levels it will recommend to the legislature’s appropriations committee.
The committee also held hearings on a related proposal to place a one cent per ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Many committee members believe a “sugar tax” will have the twin benefit of reducing consumption and thus helping reduce obesity rates in Vermont while also providing funding for enhanced premium and cost sharing subsidies on the exchange and other favored initiatives.
Meanwhile, the House Ways and Means Committee took testimony on an administration proposal to double a tax on medical claims to help fund the operation of the exchange, allow the state exchange subsidies and increase Medicaid payments to providers to “reduce” the cost shift. And the House Commerce Committee held a hearing on a bill (H.203) proposed by the department of financial services as its annual “housekeeping” bill. Last week’s session focused on captive insurance aspects of the proposal.
This week, the House Health Care Committee will continue its discussion on a “sugar tax,” render its recommendation on exchange subsidies, and hear an introductory walk-though of two bills (H.107 and H.116) that will make adjustments to the state’s health care administration and the exchange.
Also this week, the House Commerce Committee will continue hearings on H.203 while the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled testimony on proposed changes to the regulatory approval process for health insurers.
New Bills of Interest:
H.272 Introduced by Representative Wizowaty of Burlington
This bill proposes to remove a requirement that telemedicine services be delivered in a health care facility for health insurance coverage.
S.108 Introduced by Senators Pollina, Fox, Ayer, and Lyons
This bill proposes to prevent health insurers from discriminating against persons who are transgender.
S.114 Introduced by Senators Fox, Ayer, and Pollina
This bill proposes to clarify the statutory duties of the Office of the Mental Health Care Ombudsman.
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