Health Care

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House votes to fund review of exchange

VTHealthConnect

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House overwhelmingly voted to fund an independent review of Vermont Health Connect Wednesday, appeasing minority Republicans who have been clamoring for an in depth study to help determine the future of the online insurance marketplace. By a vote of 136 to 5, the House approved an amendment to an unrelated housing bill that appropriates $400,000 for the review. The House Appropriations Committee included language in the 2017 fiscal year state budget it has already passed calling for the study, but did not include funding — angering some Republicans. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and House Health Care Committee Chairman Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, promised to find the funding. Johnson told her colleagues Wednesday that the promise was kept. Continue Reading →

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Blue Cross seeks millions from Vermont Health Connect

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MONTPELIER — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont believes it is owed more than $5 million from Vermont Health Connect for unpaid insurance premiums and claims paid on plans that were terminated by the state in 2015. The insurance carrier is going through a reconciliation process with the state for the second straight year to settle its books for plans it sold through the state’s online health insurance marketplace. For plans sold in 2014, the state paid BCBS $1.6 million after the reconciliation process was complete. BCBS told state officials last month that it believes as much as $3.8 million is owed for unpaid premiums in 2015. Additionally, another $2.3 million is owed on claims it paid out for plans that were terminated by the state but not communicated to the company, according to Cory Gustafson, director of government and public relations at BCBS. Continue Reading →

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VPR Poll: Phil Scott is in the driver’s seat

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MONTPELIER — A new Castleton Polling Institute poll commissioned by Vermont Public Radio has provided disheartening numbers for the two Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial race, while Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is soaring. The Vermont primary to select major party gubernatorial candidates will not be held until Aug. 9, but the poll results released Monday show that the two declared Democratic candidates — former Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter and Matt Dunne, a former Windsor county state senator — are at a significant disadvantage in the early going in their quest to succeed Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Among the 895 Vermonters polled, Minter was selected by just 11 percent as their preferred Democratic candidate. Dunne, meanwhile, was the choice of 19 percent. Continue Reading →

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Republicans call for assessment of Vermont Heath Connect

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott calls for an independent assessment of Vermont Health Connect last month. (VPB/Josh O'Gorman)

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s top republicans are calling for an independent assessment of Vermont Health Connect to determine if it’s worth keeping. On Friday, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning and House Minority Leader Don Turner called for the Green Mountain Care Board to conduct an assessment of the state’s beleaguered health care exchange. “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” said Scott, whose remarks follow testimony offered earlier this week to the House Health Care Committee from Garton Consulting, which recommended an independent assessment. Sen. Benning, R-Caledonia, reviewed a two-year time line of blown deadlines, cost overruns and lack of functionality for Vermont Health Connect. “Vermonters have suffered a long history of broken promises and missed deadlines on this frustrating path to affordable and dependable health care,” Benning said. Continue Reading →

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State will soon file waiver to bypass health exchange for small business

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MONTPELIER — Legislation to allow small businesses to continue bypassing Vermont Health Connect is headed to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s desk to be signed into law. The Shumlin administration sought legislation allowing the state to request a waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services because the state’s online health insurance marketplace launched without the expected functionality to enroll small business customers. The Senate passed the House version of the bill Thursday by a unanimous voice vote. Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, speaking on the Senate floor, told his colleagues the legislation is needed because the federal government set a deadline for small businesses to enroll through Vermont Health Connect by Jan. 1, 2017. Continue Reading →

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Speaker: House to explore exchange options

VTHealthConnect

MONTPELIER — The House Health Care Committee will hold hearings next week to examine the state’s options for Vermont Health Connect as the exchange faces new challenges and unrest grows in the Legislature, according to House Speaker Shap Smith. The Shumlin administration revealed last week that a new backlog of exchange users waiting for changes to their accounts has emerged and includes more than 3,000 people. According to a Vermont Public Radio report, the Shumlin administration blamed the new backlog on a software upgrade that was not yet ready to be deployed. The administration reported last fall that it had dealt with a backlog of requested changes that at one time had numbered more than 10,000. Smith told the Vermont Press Bureau Tuesday the Shumlin administration needs to show quick progress on fixing the so-called change of circumstance function and reducing the backlog. Continue Reading →

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Vermont proposes all-payer health care model

Al Gobeille, right, discusses the all-payer model.

MONTPELIER — Vermont has taken the first step toward a radical change in the way health care providers are paid for their services. On Monday, state officials submitted a proposal to the federal government that would see doctors paid for the health outcomes of their patients, rather than for the services they provide. “I think anyone in the health care industry knows that fee-for-service results in duplication and inefficiency,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, a statement he has made in one form or another during his five years in office. Rather than pay for every visit to the doctor’s office or every test a patient takes, the proposed all-payer model would allow Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers to pay health care providers based upon the heath outcomes of their patients. The Shumlin Administration submitted its proposal Monday to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, seeking permission to employ an all-payer model in Vermont for five years, beginning in January 2017 and continuing through December 2021. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin scraps Medicaid change after one day

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday he will scrap a $4.9 million budget-savings initiative he proposed just one day earlier that would have changed Medicaid eligibility requirements for pregnant women. Shumlin, who delivered his final budget address to the Legislature Thursday, had planed to raise the income level at which pregnant women qualify for the Medicaid from 138 percent of the federal poverty level to 213 percent. That equates to about $16,000 and $25,000, respectively. Women who no longer qualified for Medicaid under the governor’s proposal would have been eligible for subsidized health plans on Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. A change in state law would be required, however, to allow pregnant women to enroll in a health plan outside of the open enrollment period. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin seeks 3.1 percent boost in FY2017 budget, expansion of provider assessment

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers the final budget address of his governorship inside the House chamber. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is looking to address a deficit in the state’s Medicaid program by expanding a tax on health care providers in the $1.537 billion 2017 fiscal year budget proposal he revealed Thursday. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, delivered the final budget proposal of his tenure to lawmakers Thursday. His proposal, outlined in his 30-minute address inside the House Chamber, would boost spending by 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year — after mid-year adjustments are put in place. Shumlin touted his budget as responsible and necessary, noting he closed a projected $68 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending without the use of one-time funding for ongoing expenses for the first time since before the Great Recession. The 3.1 percent spending increase matches projected revenues, he said. Continue Reading →

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Exchange Backlog Returns Due To New Technical Problems

Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller (VPR/Taylor Dobbs)

ast October, Gov. Peter Shumlin said his administration had finally eliminated the customer-service bottleneck that had long plagued Vermont Health Connect. The change-of-circumstance backlog has since returned, however, and the setback has further eroded confidence in the future of the online insurance exchange. On Oct. 1 of last year, Gov. Peter Shumlin summoned reporters to the Statehouse to celebrate a Vermont Health Connect milestone. Shumlin said his team had finally worked through the backlog of people waiting to have changes made to their policies. Continue Reading →

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