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Story + Podcast: Shumlin narrows focus in final months

Gov. Peter Shumlin
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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast with Gov. Peter Shumlin

MONTPELIER — With just three months left in office, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says he plans to push hard to complete a handful of projects before his successor is sworn into office in early January — including an overhaul of how the state pays for health care services. Shumlin, who is not seeking re-election after his third term expires, reflected in an interview about his time in office and pledged to continue his work until his final day as governor. “This is the best job that anyone can ask for, being governor of Vermont. It’s been an extraordinary privilege. One thing that governors do every day is focus on what they were elected to do, which is to grow prosperity, grow jobs, make sure our state remains the best place to live and work and raise a family. Continue Reading →

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Blue Cross Blue Shield: Vermont Health Connect owes $6.2 million

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MONTPELIER — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont is seeking $6.2 million from the state for premiums the insurer did not receive and claims it paid out after the state had terminated individual insurance plans, according to the company and state officials. BCBS and the state are engaged in a reconciliation process to settle the books for health insurance plans sold on Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance exchange, during 2015. It is the second year that reconciliation is taking place. The state paid $1.6 million to settle the book of business in 2014. A public records request made by the Vermont Press Bureau seeking documents related to the 2015 reconciliation process was returned by the Department of Vermont Health Access, but all 125 pages had all relevant information related to the request redacted. Continue Reading →

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Scott releases health care plan, seeks to close exchange

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott speaks about his health care plan at a news conference in Burlington. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

BURLINGTON — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, released a health care plan Wednesday that seeks to scuttle the state’s online health insurance exchange and undo other initiatives put in place by outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Speaking at a news conference on Burlington’s Church Street, Scott linked his health care proposals to the major theme of his campaign — making the state more affordable. “For a lot of people who live here or who are thinking about living here, I think the affordability crisis will be the defining issue during this election,” he said. “One of the many reasons Vermont is unaffordable for so many Vermonters is because of the cost of health care.”

Scott reiterated his call Wednesday to scrap Vermont Health Connect in his first major policy proposal of the gubernatorial campaign. He has been calling on the state to abandon its own exchange for several years in favor of joining either the federal exchange or a multi-state exchange that does not yet exist. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin headed to Washington to negotiate all-payer model

Gov. Peter Shumlin

MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and his top health care team will meet with federal officials next week to continue negotiations on a major transformation in how health care is paid for in the state. Shumlin, a Democrat whose tenure in office will end in January after three terms, is seeking a transformational shift in the state’s health care system. He said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday that he and top aides will meet with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to help negotiations that have been ongoing for months. “One of the things I’m really focused on is getting this done before we’re done, and I know President Obama shares my goal in doing that,” the governor said. “I’m going to be meeting with the secretary next week. Continue Reading →

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Contraceptives bill signed into law

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation into law Monday that will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for contraceptives and ensure that vasectomies for men are now included in insurance coverage. Shumlin, a third-term Democrat who is not seeking re-election, signed H.620, on the steps of the State House Monday with lawmakers and representatives of Planned Parenthood looking on. He said the legislation moves Vermont in the right direction while some parts of the country are heading backward. “When we look around us here in 2016, here in America, and we look at the issue of reproductive rights and women’s health, it’s pretty darn shocking to this governor of Vermont when I see what’s going on with the rest of the country,” the governor said. “We have the presumptive [presidential] nominee of the Republican Party who has literally suggested that women should be punished should they seek an abortion. Continue Reading →

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House votes to fund review of exchange

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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

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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