Peter Hirschfeld

Reporter

Peter Hirschfeld covers state government and the Vermont Legislature. He is based in VPR’s Capital Bureau located across the street from Vermont’s Statehouse.

Hirschfeld is a leading Vermont journalist who has covered the Statehouse since 2009, most recently as bureau chief for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. He began his career in 2003, working as a local sports reporter and copy editor at the Times Argus.

Ways to Connect

Toby Talbot / AP

She may have resigned her high-profile post as chairwoman of the Green Mountain Care Board, but Anya Rader Wallack’s role in health care reform in Vermont is far from over.

Rader Wallack, who departed her post less than two weeks ago, is on the verge of inking a $100,000 contract with the state to oversee the use of a $45 million federal grant. In her work on the “State Innovation Model” grant, Rader Wallack will seek to propel many of the same objectives pushed by the Green Mountain Care Board.

When Commissioner of Financial Regulation Susan Donegan in May denied the Vermont Health CO-OP’s bid to become the state’s third health insurance company, she laid out two paths for the embattled organization: Appeal her decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, or begin afresh with a new application.

It chose neither.

The would-be insurance startup is instead asking Donegan to reopen the docket and reconsider an earlier decision in which she panned not only the CO-OP’s business model but the integrity of the management team that developed it.

Teri Motley is getting scared.

She isn’t worried about her own welfare so much as that of her 40-year-old son, who is among approximately 2,700 Vermonters with developmental disabilities receiving “home- and community-based service” waivers designed to keep them active in local communities.

The source of Motley’s angst lies in a proposed policy change by the Shumlin adminstration, which is seeking new flexibility over the funds appropriated to people like her son.

As if persistent rains haven't done enough to thwart outdoor recreation this year, state health officials say heavy runoff in recent weeks could turn rivers, ponds and lakes into breeding grounds for algae blooms and disease-causing pathogens.

Some of the wettest months on record have ensured an oversupply of nutrients in Lake Champlain and elsewhere, heightening the risk of blue-green algae blooms that sometimes contain toxins. Experts say the high waters of late could also translate into increased levels of E. coli, which can signal the presence of other unhealthy bacteria.

The problems began in the spring of 2012, when state officials decided to change how they determine whether disabled children in Vermont are eligible for government-subsidized home care.

The Department of Health discarded its old evaluation tool in favor of one borrowed from Wisconsin, which would from then on be used to determine whether the state was properly allocating “personal care services” to the approximately 2,200 kids served by the program in 2011.

Disability advocates were almost immediately alarmed.

A prospective health insurance carrier panned by state regulators last month has overhauled its governing board in an attempt to rehabilitate its reputation and win the right to sell policies in Vermont.

A land sale in East Montpelier is attracting a lot of attention, and it’s because the buyer of the property is Governor Peter Shumlin, and the seller is now publicly expressing remorse about the sale.

Peter Hirschfeld has been covering the story for the Vermont Press Bureau, and he joins VPR's Mitch Wertlieb for our Friday Regional Report.

Click listen to hear the interview.

They are “severely functionally impaired.” And they are among the highest-dollar offenders under watch at the Department of Corrections.

The cost to house these troubled, often aggressive convicts in community placements outside prison walls has vexed budget writers for years. The price tag for a single offender can exceed $500,000 annually. And while the six-figure expenditures are relatively rare, they have become budget-busters at an Agency of Human Services beset by fiscal pressures elsewhere.

Two years ago, lawmakers endowed a five-person panel with the power to tell doctors how much they can charge patients for health care services. Now, some physicians with private practices say the rate-setting authority could put them out of business.

As part of a health care reform initiative launched under Gov. Peter Shumlin, lawmakers have intensified oversight of the medical industry, and granted unprecedented powers to a board that now regulates doctors and hospitals.

Job losses in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene were in many cases temporary, lasting only as long as it took businesses to repair damage from the flood.

The financial impact of those layoffs has been more lasting, but lawmakers may have found a way to soften the blow.

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