Health Care

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Health insurers seek rate increases

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s largest health insurer is asking regulators to approve a double-digit increase in premiums as it deals with myriad cost pressures. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont has filed its requested 2018 health insurance rates for plans sold on the state’s exchange with the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health regulatory body that reviews and approves health insurance rates as well as hospital budgets. The insurer, which covers about 70,000 Vermonters, is seeking an average rate increase of 12.7 percent. BCBS President and CEO Don George said the requested increase is based on the cost of health care services as well as policy decisions unrelated to care that the company does not control. Those outside pressures account for about 6 percent of the 12.7 percent increase, he said. Continue Reading →

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Legislature goes into overtime as disagreements with Scott remain

MONTPELIER — The Senate passed a proposal Friday to achieve $13 million in Education Fund Savings, but lawmakers are stuck on a slow-motion path to adjournment and will return to the Capitol next week after House Republicans declined to suspend House rules to immediately consider the legislation. The Senate voted 20-9 in favor of mandating $13 million in savings from local school districts in the 2018 fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2018. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, said the plan is intended to meet Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s demand for Education Fund Savings. But the proposal approved by the Senate achieves the savings in ways the governor has said he does not support. Scott wants to save money by requiring all teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature and the governor agree that savings can be achieved from changes to the health insurance plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative. Continue Reading →

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Discord lingers over teacher health care

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and lawmakers came up short once again Thursday in their quest to find common ground on a major fiscal issue that, once resolved, will allow the legislative session to come to a close. Democratic House and Senate leaders Wednesday evening tweaked a proposal put forth by Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe and offered it up as a compromise to the Republican governor. But Scott said it wasn’t something he was prepared to accept and planned to offer a counter proposal. Lawmakers have been engaged in a standoff with Scott for the past several weeks over how to save up to $26 million annually in the state’s Education Fund. Democratic leaders in the Legislature and the governor agree that savings can be achieved from changes to the health insurance plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative. Continue Reading →

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Deal on teacher health care remains elusive

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers returned to the State House Wednesday after adjourning for a long weekend Friday but were still unable to find common ground with Gov. Phil Scott on the main issue holding up the end of the legislative session. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate met with the Republican governor Wednesday, along with representatives of the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont National Education Association, but no accord was reached on how to achieve up to $26 million in projected savings from changes in the health insurance plans offered to teachers that will take effect in January. The potential savings comes from changes to the health insurance plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative. The federal Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, includes a tax on high-end insurance plans. To avoid the tax, VEHI is offering a new slate of plans to Vermont teachers that have lower premium costs but higher out-of-pocket expenses. Continue Reading →

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Dems fend off push to alter teacher health care negotiations

MONTPELIER — The House and Senate are continuing to wrangle with crucial money bills as they aim to adjourn the first half of the legislative biennium Saturday. They have plenty of work left to do, however, and a showdown with Republican Gov. Phil Scott looms large at the end of this legislative session over his main priority for this year. Late Wednesday night, Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson cast a rare vote to fend off a Republican-led amendment to fundamentally change the way teachers in the state negotiate their health care benefits. Johnson, D-South Hero, cast her vote after the House voted 74-73 to embrace a plan pushed by Scott to move negotiating for teachers’ health care benefits from the local school district level to one statewide contract. With her vote against the measure, the House was knotted at 74-74 — close, but not enough for the GOP and 16 Democrats who bucked their own leadership to secure a majority. Continue Reading →

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GOP pushes governor’s teacher health care savings

MONTPELIER — The House postponed action on an education financing bill Monday as Democrats and Republicans continued to posture over Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to save $26 million in the Education Fund by changing how teachers negotiate their health care benefits. Scott is looking to capitalize on a unique situation this year that has all teachers in Vermont negotiating new health care benefits. That’s because the Vermont Education Health Initiative, which provides health care plans to teachers, is changing its offerings in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. Scott’s plan seeks to save $26 million by removing negotiations for health care from the local level and having them take place on a statewide level with his administration. If teachers agree to pay for at least 20 percent of their health care premiums the savings are attainable, according to the governor. Continue Reading →

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Scott seeks teacher health care overhaul as Dems, union balk

MONTPELIER — With the legislative session winding down, Gov. Phil Scott is pushing a proposal for a major overhaul of the way Vermont teachers negotiate their health care benefits, leaving Democrats puzzled as to why he did not present a detailed proposal sooner. Scott held a State House news conference Tuesday, surrounded by superintendents and school board members, to tout his proposal to have teachers across the state negotiate their health care benefits with his administration, rather than with local school boards. He said the state is in a unique position this year to save Vermont’s property taxpayers $26 million. That’s because the health care plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative are changing as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. As a result, all local school boards across the state are negotiating new health care benefits with teachers. Continue Reading →

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Senate rejects raising the legal age for tobacco products

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate rejected legislation Tuesday that would have raised the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. The legislation, S.88, was sidelined by its supporters several weeks ago when it became apparent that it lacked the votes to pass the chamber. But Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairwoman Claire Ayer, D-Addison, brought the bill back to the floor Tuesday where it was defeated on a 13 to 16 vote. Ayer said before the vote that she thought it was “possible” it would pass, but interest groups seeking to raise the legal age to purchase and possess tobacco products to 21 said it still lacked the votes. Ayer, and Sen. Debbie Ingram, D-Chittenden, a strong proponent of the bill, said they were willing to risk its defeat. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Nomination flawed but acceptable if confirmed

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he will accept an appointee to the Green Mountain Care Board made by the previous governor if the Senate votes to confirm her, even as his administration continues to voice concerns about whether she should be confirmed. Robin Lunge was appointed to a six- year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body, by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in mid- November before he left office in early January. She began serving in an interim capacity as a board member on Nov. 28 because the Senate was not in session and could not immediately act to confirm the nomination. But as Vermont Public Radio reported Monday, the paperwork that i s typically filed when such an appointment is made could not be located when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently tried to act to confirm Lunge’s appointment. Continue Reading →

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