Health

State Regulators Defend Vt. Health CO-OP Decision

May 30, 2013

State regulators are defending their decision to reject the Vermont Health CO-OP's application to sell insurance.

The Affordable Care Act provides federal loans to newly formed member-owned health care cooperatives, and to date, the Vermont Health CO-OP has received just over $30 million.

The CO-OP also needs a state license to sell insurance and company officials said they were stunned to learn this week that their application had been rejected.

Officials at a newly formed Health Care Cooperative say state regulators deliberately used inaccurate information to reject the group’s license application.

Under the Affordable Care Act, federal loan money is available to help create member owned health care organizations. These new companies would be allowed to sell insurance policies on new state Exchanges beginning in January.

The New Hampshire Senate Commerce committee wants the full Senate to reject a bill that would bring the state’s insurance laws in line with President Barack Obama's health overhaul plan.

The State’s Insurance Commissioner says without the bill, the federal government will regulate all insurance products in New Hampshire, not just those related to the health care overhaul.

But Republicans who voted against the bill in committee called it the latest in a series of moves by the department and the governor's office to set up state-run insurance markets.

The head of a newly created cooperative health insurance company set up to serve Vermont says there may be inaccurate and misleading statements in a state ruling that denied the company a license.

C.E.O. of the Vermont Health Co-op, Christine Oliver, says the co-op will continue to fight for its future. She's planning a briefing for today.

AP/Toby Talbot

Vermont's largest health insurance provider and the largest private psychiatric hospital are working together and creating what they believe will be a better way to deliver both traditional and mental health care.

Officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and the Brattleboro Retreat say they've created a new business called Vermont Collaborative Care designed that will integrate mental health and substance abuse care with traditional health care.

AP/NIAID, Agriculture Department

Tues 5/28/13 Noon & 7 pm  Scientists are learning more and more by the minute about the trillions of microbes that live in and on our bodies. These microogranisms play an incredibly important role in the digestive process and our ability to combat infectious diseases and allergies.

Dartmouth Microbiology and Immunology Professor Deb Hogan and Gary Mawe, UVM Professor of Neurobiology, give us a look through the microscope to educate us on the role these organisms play in our lives.

VPR/Nina Keck

High school students who have autism now have more options than ever for enrolling in college and succeeding there. On the next Vermont Edition, we look at programs that provide social and academic support for college students on the autism spectrum.

The State of Vermont says a newly formed Health Care Cooperative has serious financial problems and should not be given a license to offer insurance policies beginning next year. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, member owned Cooperatives can be licensed to sell health insurance policies on a state exchange beginning in 2014. To do so, they must receive both federal and state approval.

The organization helping Vermont prepare for the federal health care reform has hired groups to help people navigate the system.

Vermont Health Connect announced Tuesday it had awarded $2 million in grants to organizations that will provide in-person enrollment assistance for health care coverage.

The organizations will manage people who will be trained and certified to provide direct assistance to individuals, families and small businesses.

Riverhead Books / Penguin

Tue 5/21/13 Noon & 7 pm When writer Sue Halpern faced the loneliness and boredom of an empty nest, she decided to face it in an unusual way. She and her dog Pranksy began visiting a local nursing home as a therapy dog team. Along the way Halpern learned some interesting things about herself, and the virtues we all try to live by. 

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.

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