Health Care

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State revenue growth to continue, but remains volatile

Justin Johnson

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin Administration says revenue forecasts will likely remain unchanged going into the next year, while acknowledging revenue streams have grown more volatile. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson hosted an Internet forum Monday afternoon to inform the public on the pressures lawmakers will face as they craft the 2017 budget, and took testimony from the public on the effects budget cuts might have to social services. In a good news-bad news sort of statement, Johnson discussed the trend of revenues coming into state coffers. “Revenue is growing. It has been growing consistently, year over year, since the global financial crisis in 2008,” Johnson said. Continue Reading →

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Outside Audit Finds Vermont Health Connect Out Of Federal Compliance


he first independent, external audit of Vermont Health Connect has arrived, and Virginia-based auditing firm says the state is out of compliance with federal regulations for state health insurance exchanges. There’s a term of art in accounting called a “adverse opinion.” It means an institution isn’t in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles, or that documents needed to prove compliance are either missing or inaccurate. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Shumlin: Open enrollment is smooth

Gov. Peter Shumlin, flanked by his health care reform team, tells reporters that the 2016 open enrollment process is proceeding smoothly. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and his top health care reform officials said at a news conference that Vermont Health Connect is handling the open enrollment process well. “We’re two weeks into the annual open enrollment for Vermont Health Connect and I’m pleased to report that it is going very, very well. That’s very different from the last two times that we began open enrollment,” Shumlin said. The governor said more than 18,000 Vermonters have completed the renewal process and secured their coverage for 2016 on the state’s online health insurance marketplace. There are about 30,000 Vermonters enrolled in health care plans this year on the exchange. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Vermont should act boldly to end marijuana prohibition


agree with marijuana legalization opponent Debbie Haskins on one thing: it is not inevitable that Vermont will pass a legalization and regulation bill in the 2016 legislative session (“Haskins: Legalized pot not inevitable,” Oct. 23). Rather than taking the support of their elected officials for granted, Vermonters who care about ending marijuana prohibition need to continue encouraging legislators to move forward rather than waiting to create a responsible, regulated system. It’s easy to see why supporters of prohibition might be anxious about 2016, as many other states appear poised to legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use. At least five states — including two New England states, Maine and Massachusetts — are expected to legalize via ballot initiative in November 2016. Continue Reading →

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Vermont Medical Society calls for background checks, soda tax

Vermont Medical Society

MONTPELIER – The Vermont Medical Society is renewing the call for background checks for firearm purchases and an excise tax on sugar-sweetened drinks as part of its priorities for the upcoming legislative session. During its recent annual meeting – the 202nd for the organization – the Vermont Medial Society adopted resolutions that touch on issues that were debated during the last legislative session, in the hope they might receive a second look one day in the future. “There are a number of opportunities and challenges facing Vermont’s health care system during this time of great transition,” said James Hebert, M.D., the newly elected president of the Vermont Medical Society, which represents 2,000 physicians in the state. “By passing these resolutions, our members seek to impact health care public policy in our state, with our priorities being improving Vermonters’ health and protecting access to quality health care,” Hebert continued. The resolutions touch on a pair of issues that were debated and received little traction during the last legislative session, such as a call for background checks for all firearm sales, including the sale of firearms at gun shows, over the Internet, in classified ads and private sales. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration won’t seek more funds in budget adjustment

Andrew Pallito (courtesy photo)

MONTPELIER — Shumlin administration officials say they are hoping to avoid asking lawmakers for additional funds for the 2016 fiscal year in the annual budget adjustment and will instead ask for the authority to shuffle spending within state government. Finance Commissioner Andrew Pallito, who took over the post on Nov. 1, will update the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee Friday on the administration’s budget adjustment progress and its plan to address a $35 to $40 million gap in the Medicaid program. Pallito said Thursday the administration will seek “spending authority manipulation across state government” to help close the Medicaid gap and address additional budget pressures in state government. “We’re going to zero it,” Pallito said. Continue Reading →

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Legislation looks to curb Medicaid fraud

From left, Rep. Peter Welch, Attorney General William Sorrell and Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen.

BARRE — Vermont’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives is proposing legislation intended to reduce Medicaid fraud. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. is one of three sponsors of a bipartisan bill that calls for states who convict health care providers of Medicaid fraud to report that information to the federal government, which will then share the information with other states. “There are a number of bad actors that provide fraudulent Medicaid reimbursement bills, and a failure at the federal level to jump on this and get that information out to other states where Medicaid providers might be ripping off the taxpayer,” Welch said during a stop Monday morning at Capstone Community Action, which provides social services to the neediest of Washington County area residents. One of the results of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — has been an increase in the number of people who are enrolled in Medicaid, which is funded through federal and state dollars. Continue Reading →

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Two years late: Is Vermont Health Connect Finally Ready?


MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin had not even decided to run for the state’s top office when the federal Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, but the landmark legislation would soon begin to shape his governorship in ways he could not have imagined. Shumlin, who was sworn into office in January 2011, began his tenure as the state’s chief executive with a trademark swagger. Now as he approaches the end, having announced in June that he will not seek a fourth term, he is hoping to leave in place a working exchange that he has championed, but which has struggled for two years and one month to meet Vermonters’ expectations. The governor held a news conference Thursday to announce that the site should finally work today, Nov. 1, as the open enrollment period for 2016 health care plans begins. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration expects ‘smooth sailing’ for open enrollment


MONTPELIER — A state official overseeing Vermont Health Connect said he expects mostly “smooth sailing” when Vermonters begin renewing health care plans on a newly automated system Nov. 1. Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller informed lawmakers in a memo sent Monday that the state’s online health insurance marketplace is primed to begin automated policy renewals during the open enrollment period that begins on Sunday and ends Jan. 31. The memo is part of a monthly report to lawmakers about progress on the exchange. Continue Reading →

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Medicaid, budget woes on the horizon in Montpelier

Gov. Peter Shumlin in his ceremonial State House office earlier this year.

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are facing another daunting budget gap as high as $90 million in the 2017 fiscal year that is driven largely by Medicaid costs after tackling a $113 million problem this year, according to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office. There are still two and a half months before the next legislative session commences, but the fiscal challenges are already on the radar of lawmakers and the Shumlin administration. The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office outlined those challenges for lawmakers last week. According to JFO, the state must find an additional $38 million for its Medicaid program for the current fiscal year. Another $58 million hole is projected for the 2017 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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