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 →

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 →

Scott forms panel on chemical oversight

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order Tuesday to create the Vermont Interagency Committee on Chemical Management, which will review chemical regulations and policies in Vermont. The committee created by executive order will look to ensure compliance with laws regulating chemical use in the state and try to reduce risks posed to Vermonters from the use or storage of unsafe chemicals. The committee “will incorporate the expertise of state agencies and outside experts who will participate in the citizen advisory panel,” according to Scott’s office. “The discovery of PFOA contamination of the drinking water in Bennington County was a wake-up call for Vermont,” Scott said in a statement. “I am directing this committee to find solutions that will ensure proactive coordination among the agencies charged with chemical oversight to protect Vermonters from unsafe chemicals, increase public access to information about chemicals in our communities, and help Vermont businesses comply with existing law.”

The committee will be chaired by Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore or her designee. Continue Reading →

Police promise more visibility following spate of fatal crashes

WATERBURY — Top law enforcement officials are promising more visibility on Vermont roads after a spate of fatal crashes in recent days that have left eight people dead. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson joined state, county and local law enforcement officials at a news conference Tuesday to highlight their efforts to improve highway safety throughout the state. The news conference followed a several-day period that saw three fatal crashes, including one in Bridport Monday that resulted in four fatalities. “It’s been a tragic few days on Vermont’s roadways,” Anderson said. Gov. Phil Scott also noted the uptick in fatalities in a statement. Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

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 →

Election Commission data request on hold pending lawsuit

MONTPELIER — Secretary of State Jim Condos said a request for voter information from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is on hold while the commission deals with a federal lawsuit. Condos and other election officials around the country received an email Monday from Andrew Kossack, the designated federal officer for the commission, asking them to hold off on sending the information requested by the commission. The hold, according to the email, is due to suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Electronic Privacy Information Center that seeks a temporary restraining order. “Until the Judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data. We will follow up with you with further instructions once the Judge issues her ruling,” Kossack wrote in the email, which Condos provided to the Vermont Press Bureau. Continue Reading →

AG Donovan reviewing request for voter information

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says his office is reviewing a request from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to determine if Secretary of State Jim Condos is required to provide information sought by the commission. The president launched the commission earlier this year after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Trump claimed that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the election, although that unsubstantiated claim has been widely panned by experts. Last week the commission requested personal voter information from all 50 states, including birthdates, drivers license numbers, parts of Social Security numbers and information about criminal records and military service. Condos initially said he would provide limited information that is already public record. Continue Reading →

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 →