Peter Shumlin

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Shumlin: Obamacare critical for Vermonters

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks about the progress of Vermont Health Connect, the state's online health insurance marketplace, and the importance of the federal Affordable Care Act to Vermont. (VPB/Neal P. Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is defending Obamacare and the state’s health care exchange as President-elect Donald Trump signals his intention to decimate them, a move the governor says will be an “extraordinary disaster for Vermonters.”

Shumlin, who is nearing the final month of his governorship, used a Montpelier news conference Tuesday to defend the federal and state health care reform efforts during his six years in office. He said Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace created under the federal Affordable Care Act, is finally working as anticipated when it launched in Oct. 2013. “I personally believe that Vermont now has among the best functioning state exchanges in America and probably the best functioning state exchanges in America,” the governor said. The open enrollment process, which has struggled in past years as technology faltered, is “proceeding smoothly,” Shumlin argued. Continue Reading →

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Lunge heading to Green Mountain Care Board

Robin Lunge

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin has appointed Robin Lunge, one of the top health care reform advisors in his administration, to the Green Mountain Care Board. Lunge, Shumlin’s director of health care reform since 2011, will replace Dr. Allan Ramsay, whose term expired in late September, on the five-member board. Lunge will begin serving her six-year term on Nov. 28. The board has regulatory authority over hospitals and insurance companies and is responsible for controlling the growth rate of health care spending. Continue Reading →

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Video: Shumlin, Scott meet to begin transition

Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott met with outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin Thursday afternoon for their first face-to-face meeting since Scott’s victory on Tuesday. The two were planning to begin discussing how to ensure a smooth transition from Shumlin’s administration to Scott’s incoming team. Watch the video below:
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Gov.-elect Scott begins transition, pledges to find common ground with Democrats

Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters the day after winning Vermont's gubernatorial race. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott claimed a mandate Wednesday for his incoming administration to focus on the economy while pledging to work with the Democratic-led Legislature to improve the fiscal lives of Vermonters. Scott, 58, defeated Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter Tuesday by a 52 percent to 43.5 percent margin. In January he will be sworn in as the state’s 82nd governor. But Vermonters send mixed signals at the voting booth. They opted for Progress and Democratic nominee David Zuckerman over Republican Randy Brock for lieutenant governor, and Senate Democrats expanded their dominance by two seats and now control 23 of the 30 total seats. Continue Reading →

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Scott wins gubernatorial race

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

BURLINGTON — Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott won a decisive victory in Democratic leaning Vermont Tuesday and will become the state’s 82nd governor in January. With 224 of 275 voting districts reporting, Scott led Minter by a 54 percent to 42 percent margin with nearly 260,000 votes counted. Scott jumped out to an early lead on Minter, but the Democratic strong-hold of Burlington had yet to report results. Still, Scott bested Minter in other parts of Chittenden County — the state’s most populous. “For everyone that voted for me, your support means so much. Continue Reading →

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Entergy plans to sell Vermont Yankee to decommissioning firm

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VERNON — Entergy Nuclear announced Tuesday morning that it had reached an agreement to sell the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, a move the company said would move up decommissioning of the Vernon reactor by decades. The company also announced that it was moving up the transfer of the spent nuclear fuel held in Yankee’s spent fuel pool to dry cask storage by two years, from 2020 to 2018. The transfer to NorthStar Group Services of New York City has to be approved by both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the state of Vermont’s Public Service Board. Gov. Peter Shumlin immediately praised the news, but injected a word of caution. “Today’s announcement that Entergy is planning to file for approval at the Public Service Board to transfer ownership of the Vermont Yankee site to a third party offers the potential for an accelerated decommissioning of the plant,” Shumlin said in a prepared statement, issued simultaneously to the Entergy announcement. Continue Reading →

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Governor-elect must decide on pension funding

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MONTPELIER — State Treasurer Beth Pearce has released the amount of money the state should set aside in next year’s budget for pension funds, leaving the winner of next Tuesday’s gubernatorial election to decide whether the state will provide 100 percent in their first recommended state budget. Pearce said the actuaries have recommended the state contribute $52,065,396 into the state employees’ pension fund. That amount would cover annual contributions and continue on a course to have the state employees’ pension system retire all of its unfunded liabilities by 2038. The payment in the pension, known as the actuarially required contribution, or ARC, was calculated by the state’s actuary, Buck Consultants, according to Pearce. She said the firm reviews census information to determine how much should be set aside. Continue Reading →

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LIHEAP benefits to increase this winter

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MONTPELIER — State officials said Thursday that a home heating assistance program will increase its benefit level for most beneficiaries during the upcoming winter season. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, funded by both state and federal dollars, will see its average benefit rise from $699 last winter to $865 this winter, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen and Department for Children and Families Commissioner Ken Schatz. The average benefit is expected to cover about 54 percent of heating costs for households. The state officials said they anticipate receiving $18.9 million in federal funding this year for the LIHEAP program. That will be added to about $3.8 million in leftover money from last year plus the state contribution approved in the 2017 fiscal year budget. Continue Reading →

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Green Mountain Care Board backs all-payer model

Al Gobeille, right, discusses the all-payer model. (File photo)

MONTPELIER — The Green Mountain Care Board on Wednesday voted to advance a draft agreement with the federal government that seeks to transform the way health care providers are paid in Vermont, paving the way for the state and federal government to begin implementation. Gov. Peter Shumlin and his top health care officials negotiated for nearly two years with the federal government on the so-called all-payer model. It will be based on the Accountable Care Organization model — groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that come together to provide coordinated care. The concept is intended to provide better information about a patient’s medical history among providers. The all-payer model includes private insurance as well as government programs like Medicaid and Medicare as payers. Continue Reading →

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Biden pushes progress on cancer research at UVM

Vice President Joe Biden poses for a selfie with Christina Lauterbach of Burlington as he greets diners at the Penny Cluse Cafe in Burlington before participating in a Cancer Moonshot Roundtable at the University of Vermont on Friday, October 21, 2016. (Pool photo by Glenn Russell/The Burlington Free Press)

BURLINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden capped off an overnight visit to the Green Mountain State Friday with a discussion of the Cancer Moonshot task force he is heading at the request of the president. Biden’s 45-minute remarks at the University of Vermont Friday morning highlighted the Cancer Moonshot initiative President Barack Obama called for in his January State of the Union Address. He tapped Biden, whose own son Beau died of brain cancer last year, to head the effort aimed at achieving 10 years of progress on cancer research in the next five years. The university hosts the University of Vermont Cancer Center, which conducts research and more than 300 clinical trials each year in addition to treating cancer patients from around the state. Biden is visiting several similar centers to highlight the work of the task force. Continue Reading →

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