Health

VPR/John Dillon

A bill allowing terminally ill patients to get medication to end their lives became law on Monday with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signature.

Although the law takes effect immediately, it may be some time before it’s used. Doctors and hospitals say they’re looking carefully at whether and how to participate.

The signing ceremony in the governor’s Statehouse office was both a celebration and a quiet remembrance for those who worked on the issue but didn’t live long enough to see it through.

Dr. Robert Shapiro, a neurologist at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, is one of the foremost researchers on the causes and symptoms of migraine. He and a team of other doctors from around the country recently discovered a gene that can make people susceptible to migraines when it mutates.

AP/Toby Talbot

High on the list of “must-pass” bills as the Legislature inched toward adjournment on Tuesday was a plan to finance Vermont’s new health care exchange beginning in January 2015. The estimated annual cost is $18 million.

When the exchange goes into place, it will be financed initially by a continuation of the current assessment on employers that don’t offer coverage to their employees. That assessment is roughly $400 a year for each employee.

Flickr/Toni Barros

Thurs 5/9/13 Noon & 7 p.m. Over 6 million women in the US have difficulty getting or staying pregnant. As more couples wait until they're older to have children, age-related fertility problems are increasing.

But going to the doctor for help with making a baby can be a trying experience- both physically and emotionally. We’ll talk about that emotional side today. Post your comments or share your stories here or email them to vermontedition@vpr.net.

Before the legislative session ends, lawmakers are expected to consider two important tax bills that deal with education spending and the financing of the state’s health care Exchange.

Big increases in school spending are expected over the next two years and lawmakers are looking at ways to encourage towns to limit their budget growth.

Currently, if a town spends 25 percent above the statewide average, a sizeable penalty is imposed. Under a bill passed by the House, this threshold would be reduced to 21 percent over several years.     

AP/Toby Talbot

The clock is running out on the 2013 legislative session, and it appears time has run out for a bill requiring labels on genetically modified food sold in Vermont. While lawmakers remain concerned that a state law on genetic labeling could provoke a lawsuit from the biotech industry, supporters are holding out hope.

In 1998, the American company Monsanto ran ads in France and in the UK. Monsanto supported labels on food that was made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The ads appeared in newspapers shortly after the European Union passed labeling laws.

Flickr/Maureen_Sill

Thurs 5/2/13 Noon & 7 pm When a terminally ill patient is deemed to have less than six months left to live, they are eligible for hospice care. Hospice provides a range of services, from clinical care, to bereavement counseling, to social work. Usually these take place in the home, although there is one residential care facility in Vermont.

Toby Talbot / AP

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend are looking for ways to collaborate more closely.

They say the goal is to make health care more cost-effective and accessible in southeastern Vermont.

The hospitals are only 17 miles apart and they want to learn how they can better coordinate care in the region.

They’re turning to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and a consulting firm to gather data that will lead to recommendations later this year.

Steven Gordon is president of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

Toby Talbot / AP

According to a new report, the effort to restrain the growth of health care costs in Vermont is being undermined by the government’s failure to properly reimburse health care providers.

The report, released by the Green Mountain Care Board, shows that health care costs grew in Vermont by just 1.5 percent in 2011 but the cost of health care insurance grew several times that rate.

Anya Rader-Wallack is the chair of the board. She thinks a slow economy in 2011 reduced demand for health care services.

A new analysis from Vermont's Green Mountain Care Board says health care costs grew slowly in 2011, climbing by just 1.5 percent.

That's down from average annual growth of 4.7 percent from 2006 to 2010.

Board Chairwoman Anya Rader Wallack says it's too early to declare victory over rising health costs, with the pace of cost growth expected to pick up in the coming few years.

Meanwhile, a second report from the board, on cost-shifting from government backed insurance programs to private insurance, says that continues to be a big problem.

A bill in the House that would guarantee paid sick days for Vermont workers gets a public hearing at the Statehouse in Montpelier from 6-8 p.m.

The bill proposes giving workers one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked up to 56 total hours – or seven days – each year.

Organizers hope tonight’s testimony will encourage House lawmakers to set committee hearings before the end of the legislative session.

Anya Rader Wallack, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, announced she's leaving the job at the end of summer, just as the Board is reaching the heavy-lifting phase of transforming Vermont's health care payment and delivery system.

News analyst Hamilton Davis talks with Vermont Edition about what her departure means for the health care reform effort in Vermont.

Health Care Changes Could Stress Substance Abuse Treatment

Apr 17, 2013

Vermont's substance abuse treatment programs could see new stress due to a greater number of people having health insurance and seeking treatment after key parts of the federal health overhaul take effect.

That's the word from Vermont experts in the fields of mental health and substance abuse whose agencies are preparing for the launch of the new exchange, which is expected to broaden access to health insurance by the end of the year.

The Vermont Health Department is launching a research study this month into Eastern Equine Encephalitis - also referred to as "triple E" - a rare disease.

Health officials are asking for volunteers from three towns near where the mosquito-borne disease killed two people last year.

The study will test how many volunteers from Brandon, Sudbury and Whiting are infected with the virus that causes EEE, but have not gotten seriously ill. The blood tests would detect antibodies to the virus.

Erica Berl is an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Health Department.

A Williston teenager is on a literal life mission: He's in Washington DC lobbying members of Congress to keep funding for heart-related research conducted by the National Institutes of Health from being cut, due to federal sequestration.

For 15-year-old Tommy Watson, the trip to the Nation's Capitol is just another step on a journey that began with his efforts to make CPR training mandatory for students in Vermont before they graduate high school. 

"It was a great step to take because it's only 30 minutes and it teaches people how to save a life," Watson said.

Toby Talbot / AP

Since the Shumlin administration took office a little over two years ago, its major single payer health care policy initiative has rolled steadily forward. The administration won approval for the foundational legislation it needed by a comfortable margin, and the follow-up legislation passed easily, as well.

Governor Peter Shumlin's plan to finance a major expansion of child care programs is sharply dividing Vermont's early childhood community.

Within the state's early childhood community, there's almost unanimous support for the Governor's plan to significantly increase funding for child care subsidies and to boost rates for providers.  But there's a huge disagreement over how to pay for the initiative.

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.

Toby Talbot / AP

Vermont has received $250 million in federal funds over the last eighteen months to set up its health care exchange.

Friday on Vermont Edition, we examine how that money is being spent, and what work remains to meet the deadline of launching the state's exchange by the end of 2013. Our guests are Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, and Robin Lunge, the governor's director of the health care reform.

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that most Americans are uninformed about the federal health care changes that are coming, and about how health care exchanges are going to work. That situation appears to bear out in Vermont, too, given the types of questions VPR listeners posed to two leaders of Vermont's health care exchange on VPR's Vermont Edition on Friday:

Pages