Health Care

Recent Posts

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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Scott fulfills promise to veto budget, property tax bills

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott fulfilled his promise Tuesday to veto the state budget and a bill that sets property tax rates over a disagreement with Democratic lawmakers about how to negotiate teacher health care benefits. Scott sent a single veto message to House Clerk William MaGill Tuesday morning for both the budget, H.518, and what is known as the yield bill, H.509. MaGill promptly rejected the single message, however, saying two bills cannot be vetoed in a single message. “Every bill needs to have it’s own objections, according to the [Vermont] Constitution,” MaGill said. “There hasn’t been, as far as I’ve ever seen, a veto message for two bills at the same time.”

Scott spokesman Ethan Latour said the administration disagrees with MaGill’s ruling, saying there is not constitutional provision or statute “for the house clerk to impost a restriction on how, or in what way, a governor communicates his objections in writing.”

“We feel the House Clerk’s actions are obstructionist, unconstitutional and partisan, which makes them exponentially more concerning,” Latour said. Continue Reading →

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Scott receives budget bill after formal request for immediate delivery

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott’s office received the 2018 fiscal year budget bill from the House Friday afternoon after it submitted a formal request for immediate delivery, setting the stage for the governor to veto the budget and a property tax bill sometime next week. Lawmakers had maintained possession of the 2018 fiscal year budget since they passed it two weeks ago and adjourned the 2017 legislative session. Another bill that sets property tax rates, known as the yield bill, was delivered to the governor Thursday. Scott has vowed to veto both pieces of legislative because they do not account for a savings of up to $26 million in the Education Fund that he began demanding from lawmakers in mid-April. Scott is seeking to capture savings from new health care plans that will be offered to all Vermont teachers in January. Continue Reading →

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