Health Care

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Shumlin reflects on single payer failure

MONTPELIER — Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said money, wary lawmakers and timing were the core challenges that ultimately caused his failure to deliver on a promise to implement a single-payer health care system in the state. The former Democratic governor reflected on that failure Tuesday at a forum at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Shumlin ran for governor in 2010 on a platform that promised voters a single-payer system. But he announced after his 2014 re-election bid that his administration would not be moving forward with the plan. He cited the tremendous cost of the program and the burden that would be placed on the state’s limited tax base. Continue Reading →

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Sanders releases Medicare-for-all bill, passes on cost and funding

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his long-awaited Medicare-for-all legislation Wednesday, touting the support of 16 Democratic senators who signed on as co-sponsors, but plenty of crucial questions remain unanswered, including the cost. The support of one-third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate is a significant improvement for Sanders, who stood alone the last time he introduced a single-payer health care system in 2013. It reflects how Sanders, an independent, is shaping the future of the Democratic Party following his improbable run for the presidency in the Democratic Primary last year. The line-up of cosponsors includes a handful of senators pundits have eyed as potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. The bill Sanders laid out Wednesday include the broad goals of a generous, government-run health care system for the country. Continue Reading →

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Sanders prepares legislation and strategy for single-payer push

MONTPELIER — With a re-election bid looming in 2018 and a potential second presidential run further on the horizon in 2020, Sen. Bernie Sanders is focusing his time, attention and campaign dollars on drumming up support for a complete overhaul of the nation’s health care system. The 75-year-old independent senator is almost assured re-election to the Senate if and when he officially declares his candidacy. Whether he will launch a second bid for the White House is less clear. While the country attempts to catch its breath after the furious but failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Sanders is prepping a new national campaign to build support for a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. It’s the moment Sanders has been waiting for to achieve a policy goal he has coveted for decades. Continue Reading →

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GMCB cuts Blue Cross rate request by one-third

MONTPELIER — The Green Mountain Care Board has rejected Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont’s 12.7 percent requested rate increase, imposing a smaller increase of 9.2 percent. The board, the state’s health care regulatory body that oversees insurance rates and hospital budgets, announced the rate approval Thursday. BCBSVT requested the 12.7 percent increase, citing rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, increased utilization of medical services, an aging population and mandated changes to federal law as, the reasons behind the rate hike. After an analysis of the review, however, the board unanimously approved a lower rate increase for 2018 plans sold by BCBSVT on the state’s health insurance exchange. “As we issue our decision today, we are mindful of the uncertainties surrounding provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and the difficulties that many Vermonters —particularly those who do not qualify for premium assistance or cost-sharing reductions — face as health insurance premiums continue to rise faster than other economic indicators,” the board wrote in its order. Continue Reading →

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GMCB trims MVP rate hike request

MONTPELIER — The Green Mountain Care Board has approved a 3.5 percent rate increase for MVP Health Care plans sold on the Vermont Health Connect exchange in 2018. The Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s regulatory body that approves insurance rates and hospital budgets, announced the approved rate increase Wednesday. It is about half of the 6.7 percent rate increase originally sought by MVP, which insures about 10,000 Vermonters. “Today’s decision reflects our dual interests to approve rates as lean as possible, while ensuring that carriers remain solvent and therefore willing to continue to participate in our health insurance marketplace,” the board wrote in its order granting the increase. MVP and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, the state’s largest insurer, filed requested rate increases with the board in mid-May. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Senate health care vote is ‘disappointing’

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he is disappointed the U.S. Senate has voted to begin debating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a clearly defined path forward. Scott, in a telephone interview from Aspen, Co., where he is attending the Republican Governors Association quarterly meeting, said health care has dominated the two-day summit. “Suffice it to say, there are lot of differing opinions on what’s happening and what’s best for our individual states,” the governor said. Some states, like Vermont, have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and stand to lose significant federal funding under the plans pushed by Republicans in Congress. As a result, Scott said there is no consensus among the 33 GOP governors on whether Congress should be moving forward with efforts to repeal the ACA. Continue Reading →

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Leahy, Sanders vote no, but Senate moves to debate ACA repeal

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders are lashing out after the Senate voted Tuesday to begin debating a health care plan that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and leave tens of millions of Americans without health insurance. Both Leahy, a Democrat, and Sanders, an independent, voted Tuesday afternoon against a motion to proceed to debate on a House-passed health care bill. The vote was held Tuesday before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., revealed the legislative language that senators will be debating, however. The process used by the Republican majority and the secretive nature of the Senate GOP’s plan have drawn the ire of Vermont’s two senators. Continue Reading →

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont seeks $10.3 million from state

MONTPELIER — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont is seeking $10.3 million from the state for premiums and services it did not receive payment for as the insurer works to close out its 2016 book of business on the state’s health insurance exchange. It is the third year in a row since Vermont Health Connect launched that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and the state are undergoing a process known as reconciliation. The state paid $1.6 million to BCBS for the 2014 plan year and $3.5 million for the 2015 plan year. The reconciliation process is necessary because the state’s online insurance marketplace was not fully implemented when it launched and some technological elements did not function correctly, resulting in discrepancies within the billing and enrollment system of Vermont Health Connect. In some cases, consumers terminated their insurance plans but the change took months to take effect within the system. Continue Reading →

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Sanders to seek Medicare for all plan

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce legislation that would create a Medicare for all health system in the U.S. as Republicans in Congress continue efforts to dismantle the federal Affordable Care Act. Sanders, an independent and a former candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has been a longtime advocate for a single-payer health care system. He has been a staunch opponent of the health care legislation being crafted by Republican senators that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says could cause 22 million Americans to lose health coverage over the next decade. The GOP health plan seeks to eliminate taxes on the wealthy and medical companies that help pay for the health insurance of lowincome Americans. It would also drastically reduce spending on Medicaid, a state-federal program that provides health coverage to low-income and disabled Americans. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers pushing forward on budget deal

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott stood side-by-side with legislative leaders Wednesday morning to announce a deal on how to save property tax dollars on teacher health care plans, an issue that held up the end of the legislative session last month and led to vetoes of the state budget and property tax yield bill. Wednesday was the first of a scheduled two-day veto session after Scott, a Republican, vetoed the state budget and a the yield bill, which sets property tax rates, because lawmakers did not include his demand to save up to $26 million on the cost of teachers health care plans by, in part, creating a statewide negotiation for health benefits. The day began with Scott, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, holding a State House news conference to tout the accord. Scott said the deal “will help the state achieve significant savings in the Education Fund” and “will set property tax rates at or below fiscal year 2017 levels.”

“The resolution reached is indeed a compromise, but it’s a good one that saves taxpayers millions. We found areas of common ground and we each gave on areas where there was none,” Scott said. Continue Reading →

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