To keep or drop insurance coverage? Considerations for Vermont small employers in 2014

first_imgThose individuals who do purchase coverage via the Exchange will have to buy insurance with after-tax dollars, further lowering their purchasing power. As a result, the more small employers who continue to provide coverage, the more Vermonters will be insured. Submitted by the Act 48 Progress Assessment Working Group Small employers in Vermont have a decision to make before January of 2014 ‘ whether to keep their employer-sponsored insurance or drop it altogether and direct their employees to the state’ s new Health Insurance Exchange as individual purchasers.  The Administration is recommending that small employers drop their health insurance coverage. Instead, we encourage businesses to evaluate their options and consider the implications on not only their own bottom lines, but the impact on working Vermonters. We believe there is no single right answer for employers and we feel that many Vermonters may be better off keeping their current employer-based insurance plan. The impact of losing employer sponsored insurance will vary depending on the employee’ s household income. Only those individuals with incomes below 200 percent of the FPL (federal poverty level, $22,980 annual income) are likely to experience reduced health insurance costs using the new subsidies available in the exchange rather than employer-sponsored coverage. Very soon, Vermont employers must address these questions and make a choice. We hope when they do, they will consider all the facts they need to choose the best path forward for their company and employees. Vermonters with higher incomes could pay significantly more for insurance than they do under their employer-sponsored coverage. For example, individuals earning over $45,960a year will receive no subsidies and will be expected to pay 100 percent of the premium cost. This increased cost could mean a number of these Vermonters may not purchase insurance, preferring to pay the relatively small tax penalty of $95 a year, per person.National estimates indicate that about 30 percent of employers could drop their coverage, even without any encouragement. If these estimates hold true for Vermont, about 12,000 of these dropped Vermonters will likely choose not to buy health insurance. Dropped employees could choose to forego health coverage for economic reasons creating a new class of uninsured, although previously insured, middle-income Vermonters. In addition to the changes employers face resulting from the Affordable Care Act cited above, Vermont businesses will still pay if they drop their coverage. The Administration is recommending that the so-called ‘ Catamount tax’ continue in 2014 after the Catamount program is replaced by the Exchange. This would impose a state tax penalty of $476 per employee on small employers who drop coverage on full-time workers. Because the impact on employers and employees will vary, we encourage employers to consider the following questions when deciding whether to keep their coverage or to drop it:center_img ‘¢       What are the household incomes of my employees and will they be eligible to receive subsidies on the Exchange and what level of subsidization (healthreform.kff.org/Subsidycalculator.aspx)?‘¢       Will my employees be able to afford health insurance if I drop my employer-sponsored coverage?‘¢       If I drop my coverage, how much of an increase in wages will I need to make to ensure that employees can still afford insurance?‘¢       If I drop my coverage and increase the wages of my employees, how much in additional taxes will I pay (due to losing the corporate tax exemption for providing health insurance and paying additional payroll taxes) and my employees pay (due to paying taxes on higher wages and paying for insurance with after-tax dollars)?‘¢       Is my business eligible for a financial incentive to sponsor group healthcare coverage such as the small group tax credit (see irs.gov)?‘¢       Will there be a penalty for dropping coverage such as the Catamount tax?‘¢       How does the decision to keep or drop your health insurance coverage affect employee recruitment, retention and employee wellness? Representing Act 48 Progress Assessment Working Group Organizations: Encouraging small businesses to drop insurance dismantles the existing financing mechanism, before the new and long-term financing mechanism is known, potentially leading to increased supplemental state financing to support previously insured individuals. The Administration has cited the individual market exchange as a more affordable option for the employees of small businesses than their current employer-sponsored coverage. While this may be true for some people, it is most likely not true for all. Some employees could face significantly higher health insurance costs that will make it very challenging to maintain their health insurance coverage. The result? Less affordable coverage for middle-income Vermonters and an increase in the number of uninsured Vermonters. John Brumsted, M.D., Pres. & CEO, Fletcher Allen Health CareBetsy Bishop, Pres., Vermont Chamber of CommerceDon George, Pres. & CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of VermontBea Grause, Pres. & CEO, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health SystemPaul Harrington, EVP, Vermont Medical SocietyLisa Ventriss, Pres., Vermont Business Roundtablelast_img read more

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Backers, opponents of mandated paid sick leave bring arguments to Statehouse

first_imgby Nat Rudarakanchana April 19, 2013 vtdigger.org Dozens of people affiliated with the Vermont Paid Sick Days Coalition flocked to the Statehouse on Thursday evening to lobby for mandatory paid sick leave for working Vermonters.Business association lobbyists came too, representing the state’ s employers and pushing a firm counter-message: Mandating paid sick leave will hurt Vermont businesses, especially small businesses.The House General, Military, and Housing Affairs committee took testimony in a two-hour public hearing, alternating between those favoring paid sick leave legislation and those opposed. Those in favor significantly outweighed those opposed.The legislation, H.208, requires Vermont businesses, regardless of size, to provide up to seven paid sick days a year, if employees work a certain number of hours. Employees can use this time to care for themselves or their family, and also to remedy sexual and domestic violence problems.Lobbyists for business coalitions, like the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, hold that the bill forces a ‘ one-size-fits-all’ mandate upon employers which is neither necessary nor appropriate.‘ Any type of paid time off, any policy regarding that, should be left up to the employer,’ said Jessica Gingras, a lobbyist for the chamber. ‘ We don’ t think that a one-size-fits-all, 56-hour-a-year mandate, with accrued time mandated, with carry over time mandated, will fit for the average Vermont employer.’Gingras is especially concerned that the legislation doesn’ t carve out special provisions for small businesses, often defined as those with 25 or fewer employees. Existing maternity leave and family leave statutes in Vermont, said Gingras, do have those exceptions to protect small businesses.Vermont employers do what they can, within what they can afford, to offer reasonable benefits and paid leave, said Gingras. Although she conceded there are a few ‘ bad apples,’ she said these were few.‘ We know that employers bend over backwards for their employees,’ said Gingras.Not so, said many of those who spoke on Thursday evening, relating firsthand their personal work experiences.‘ With already minimal benefits, we are not getting paid sick days,’ said Desiree Roberts, a Monkton resident who’ s worked in the service industry for much of her life. ‘ We are forced to choose between going to work, and risk worsening our condition, or to go into debt, or possibly lose our jobs when we are ill.’‘ It is not anyone’ s fault when they get sick, or have a child that is ill, or have an elderly parent,’ said Roberts. ‘ These are all parts of being human. And we don’ t seem to be making any allowances for being human.’There’ s both a human and economic dimension to this legislation, as the debate on Thursday evening evidenced.George Malek, president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, warned that the legislation could result in 4,000 layoffs, as employers scramble to compensate for the hours that employees will inevitably miss given paid sick leave.‘ I’ m here to ask you to not further impose on Vermont employers, and not further restrict employment opportunities for Vermont’ s residents,’ Malek told House lawmakers. He said the sick leave measure translates to a 3.5 percent surcharge on payrolls, even as minimum wages, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation costs rise.‘ Cash-strapped businesses are facing government-imposed increases in power costs, additional taxes on fuel and consumer spending, uncertain health care expenses, and hours of additional paperwork,’ said Malek.Still, not all business owners are against paid sick days. Wes Hamilton, who runs many Central Vermont restaurants, including Montpelier’ s legendary Three Penny Taproom, said mandating sick leave both helps employees and levels the playing field for many businesses.‘ Unfortunately, not all business owners are inclined to prioritize taking care of their employees,’ said Hamilton. ‘ When such benefits are voluntary, it puts those of us compelled to do the right thing at a disadvantage for doing so,’ he continued, explaining that businesses are able to cut costs and prices by not offering reasonable benefits.Hamilton said workers without sick leave who end up unemployed place greater strain on state welfare programs.Heather Pipino, with the Vermont Workers Center, also argued that there are economic benefits to sick leave.‘ You have less employee turnover, you have less costs associated with training,’ said Pipino, who’ s worked without sick leave in the nonprofit, restaurant, and retail sectors. She also pointed out that Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, a major business association, supports this bill.‘ There are plenty of employers who can offer the counter-narrative to, that they’ re going to have to lay people off if they give people paid sick leave,’ she said.Bill Driscoll, of the Associated Industries of Vermont, which represents manufacturers, isn’ t convinced. He suspects there could be unforeseen consequences, including layoffs.‘ You’ re increasing the cost of employment,’ he told VTDigger. ‘ You’ re going to have to have something to offset that.’ Though one business owner testified that the state should fund this mandate by offering employers tax breaks or other subsidies, instead of leaving the costs to be borne by businesses, Driscoll isn’ t a big fan of this state-based approach either.This may all be moot. The rally to boost support of paid sick leave comes with less than a month left in the legislative session, and the bill hasn’ t yet cleared a committee vote.It’ s unclear how much political traction the measure has, though former Gov. Madeline Kunin expressed her support of the bill earlier in March.Similar legislation failed in 2010, said Gingras, after the Chamber of Commerce managed to rally 100 businesses to testify against paid sick days in 2010, in only 24 hours.last_img read more

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Governor Shumlin to speak at Marlboro College commencement Sunday

first_imgMarlboro College has announced its 66th graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 19 will feature Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin addressing the 62 graduates from the Class of 2013.‘Governor Shumlin is an ideal choice to address our thoughtful, motivated, and well-prepared graduates this year,’said college president Ellen McCulloch-Lovell. ‘He is keenly aware of the talents our graduates possess and the importance of utilizing those precious skills in a democratic society.’Governor Shumlin was first elected to head the State of Vermont in 2010 and again in 2012. His career in public service spans over 30 years having started at the age of 24 when he was elected to serve on the Putney select board. In 1990, Governor Madeleine Kunin appointed Peter to fill an empty seat in the Vermont House of Representatives, where he served for 3 years. He then served Windham County for 8 terms in the VT Senate.Class of 2013 graduates will be regaled by Governor Shumlin, as well as Marlboro Board President Dean Nicyper ‘76, McCulloch-Lovell, Dean of Faculty Richard Glezjer, and senior speaker Evan Lamb ‘13.Marlboro will award Governor Shumlin an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony, and Julie Johnson Kidd, President of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation since 1980, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for her stalwart dedication and support of the liberal arts.The entire commencement, will stream live online at http://www.marlboro.edu/commencement(link is external) beginning at 10:30 a.m.last_img read more

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Vermont officials, groups respond to Obama’s climate change address

first_imgPresident Barack Obama this week delivered a speech on climate change in which he proposed, among other things, limiting carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired utilities by no later than June 2014 and linked any approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project to assurances that it would not add to greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to read the president’s speech.President Obama speaks at the University of Vermont in March 2012. Photo by Vermont Business Magazine.Following is a roundup piled by vtdigger.org of Vermont officials’and advocates’responses to the address.Sen. Patrick LeahyI agree with the President that climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it is also a challenge uniquely suited to our strengths as a country. Our scientists, researchers, universities and entrepreneurs stand ready to design and build new, less polluting energy sources. Vermont’s and our country’s farmers and forestland owners stand ready to grow renewable fuels. American businesses will innovate and develop new energy technologies that will reduce pollution and grow our economy with jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. Our workforce stands ready to modernize our power plants and retrofit our buildings to meet 21st Century efficiency standards.I stand ready to support the President, and Vermonters want to do our part. The important goals the President has laid out today will create jobs, save lives and protect and preserve our treasured natural resources for future generations.No single step can accomplish the goals that President Obama has presented today, but we must begin now, and take these critical first steps together. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to address these threats and be responsible stewards of the earth. Just as any Vermonter who has hiked the 200 miles of Vermont’s beautiful Long Trail can tell you, the journey begins with a commitment to reach a goal, and a first step in that direction.Climate change is not a far-off or remote challenge. The impacts are overtaking us today around the globe and in Vermont. In the past two years, hurricanes Irene and Sandy devastated the Northeast, while huge swaths from Texas to the Midwest have been gripped in a historic drought, and tornadoes have raked the heartland.We can no longer willfully ignore these impacts or continue to deny the facts: The science is clear and definitive that human-induced climate change is happening and it is happening rapidly. We are obligated to reduce carbon emissions, and efforts to do so have the support of the American people.Not only is the science clear, but the human and economic costs of climate change are hitting home. The severe weather events of just the past two years have caused damages in the United States in excess of $188 billion and left more than 1100 people dead. If we do not act now then the toll is sure to mount, with ever more destructive and deadly weather pounding our coasts, parching our nation’s agricultural center, and rising sea levels threatening our coastal communities. If we do not act now, the devastating impacts of climate change will only get worse.But climate change is not just about weather disasters. For instance, we also have seen asthma rates double in the past 30 years, and our children and grandchildren will only suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution worsens. We already reduced smog and acid rain and have set limits for mercury, lead, and arsenic. It is time to set a limit on carbon pollution that causes climate change and assaults the public health.The President’s proposal will allow the United States to take further important steps toward the environmental quality and good jobs that will come with a cleaner and safer energy future. We can act now so that future generations ‘our children and grandchildren ‘will know that we took the steps that helped make their world safer and cleaner.Sen. Bernie Sanders‘Global warming is the most serious environmental crisis facing the world today. It demands bold action to preserve our planet for our children and grandchildren. I applaud the president for saying he will take steps to limit heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and boost renewable energy production. These steps will help not only the environment but the economy too by creating many, many jobs. But let’s be clear: much more must be done.‘The president must support a tax on carbon and methane emissions to show the world that the United States is prepared to transform our energy system and be an international leader on climate change. The president must demand that Congress work with him to dramatically improve energy efficiency and to greatly increase our utilization of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy. Further, the president must not give speeches about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and allow construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada’s tar sands oil fields which would result in a huge increase in carbon emissions.’Gov. Peter Shumlin‘Climate change imperils our environment, our economy, and the way of life Vermonters hold dear. We understand the high price of climate change ‘from the devastation caused by more frequent and violent storms, to the quieter but significant shifts we see every day on our farms, in our forests, and in our rivers. That’s why it is so important that President Obama today put us on course to reduce pollution from power plants, some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in this country. The President’s plan to boost energy efficiency programs and to continue support for clean, renewable energy also will help our country meet its obligation to fight climate change while providing jobs and saving money on our energy bills. Vermont has shown that these efforts can help our economy prosper, even as they protect our environment. I thank the President for his leadership.’Vermont Public Interest Research GroupToday, President Obama announced a climate plan that will set limits on carbon pollution from power plants, advance energy efficiency and increase the nation’s commitment to renewable energy like wind and solar power. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, record drought in many states, and devastating wildfires in the West, the president’s plan to address global warming was loudly applauded by Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and many others.‘Today, President Obama did more than talk-the-talk when it comes to taking action on climate change; he walked-the-walk,’said Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG. ‘All of us who have felt the effects of global warming, or simply worried about what’s in store for our kids, can take comfort in knowing that President Obama has put the nation on a path toward a cleaner, healthier and safer future.’Left unchecked, global warming is projected to bring to Vermont more intense storms and more unhealthy air days. For instance, an Environment America report released last year found that Vermont is hit with more frequent, more destructive extreme precipitation ‘heavy downpours or snowstorms that used to happen once annually now happen every 6.5 months on average, and Vermont’s largest annual storms now produce 35 percent more precipitation than in 1965. Scientists have warned that the window is rapidly closing for making the necessary cuts in carbon pollution to protect future generations from the worst consequences of global warming.To respond to this threat, the president’s plan contains several key components. It will:â ¢ Limit carbon pollution from new and existing power plants. The president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, which currently lack any such federal limits despite being the largest single source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.â ¢ Invest in energy efficiency. New efficiency measures for buildings and new appliances will cut carbon pollution by reducing our overall energy demand.â ¢ Build more renewable energy. The plan focuses on expanding production of clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, especially on public lands.â ¢ Support affected communities. The president’s plan will help ensure that communities are better equipped to prepare for and recover from the impacts of global warming.â ¢ Rebuild U.S. leadership Internationally. The president’s plan calls for the U.S. to actively engage in international efforts to address global warming.VPIRG offered special praise for the president’s pledge to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. More than 3.2 million Americans submitted public comments last year in support of the president setting limits on carbon pollution from power plants.‘Carbon pollution from power plants is a huge part of the global warming problem. That’s why we need not only to clean up the old plants burning dirty fossil fuels, but we need to build more clean energy plants that utilize renewable resources,’said Burns. ‘The president’s plan is just one important step in a multi-year effort, and that the proof of the plan’s success will be in the pudding. But VPIRG is prepared to work with the vast majority of Vermonters who stand ready to assist the president in following through on this critical commitment.’Vermont Energy PartnershipThe Vermont Energy Partnership commends President Obama for addressing climate change and the role that nuclear power can play in that regard. We have always promoted clean, affordable energy and have noted that nuclear power is a part of that category. Vermont Yankee is a virtually-carbon free generator of about three-quarters of the electricity produced in Vermont and should continue to operate as the state develops and deploys more renewable, clean power sources.Renewable Energy Vermont‘Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) heralds many of the initiatives announced in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan announced earlier today. The goals of doubling renewables on public lands to 20 gigawatts by 2020, streamlining permitting for the retrofitting of existing hydro dams, and the commitment by the Department of Defense to deploy 3 gigawatts of solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy technologies at military installations by 2025 will not only grow jobs in renewables and set the stage for faster deployment of clean, renewable energy ‘it will further promote local energy security and reduce energy costs while placing us on a continued path towards climate change mitigation. President Obama’s focus on the important and critical role of businesses and communities in collaboratively leading America forward in our energy transformation reflects the ongoing work seen here in Vermont. Increasing energy resiliency ‘and improving our energy infrastructure ‘are critical steps in aligning towards our own state goal of 90% renewables across all energy sectors (electricity, heating, and transportation) by 2050.’last_img read more

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Brattleboro’s hospital and art museum team up in ‘Art for the Heart’

first_imgBrattleboro Memorial Hospital,Beginning September 18, patients and visitors to the new cardiology suite at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH) will have an opportunity to view some of the region’s finest artwork, thanks to “Art for the Heart,” a new collaboration between the hospital and the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC). Conceived by cardiologist Dr. Mark Burke, an avid photographer and trustee of the Vermont Arts Council, “Art for the Heart” will showcase work by artists from the tri-state region surrounding Brattleboro, Vermont, in six-month exhibits on the walls of the cardiology suite. The exhibits will be organized by staff of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.According to Burke, “BMAC is the cornerstone of art in our diverse arts community, and BMH is the cornerstone of health, so this seems like a natural fit. The art that will be gracing our walls will add a welcoming and calming dimension to our office. That it will by high-quality artwork created by some of the region’s most well-known artists is an added bonus. Further, any opportunity to bring art to a broad swath of people who might not otherwise be exposed to it is an affirmative event.”BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams will oversee the project from an artistic standpoint, with exhibits to be curated by Williams, her colleagues at BMAC, and guest curators. “This project will serve two incredibly valuable purposes,” said Williams. “It will afford cardiology patients and their loved ones an opportunity to reduce anxiety and stress by contemplating objects of beauty. In addition, it will provide exposure for some of the many highly accomplished, talented, and thoughtful artists living and working in our region.”The inaugural “Art for the Heart” exhibit is titled “A Sense of Place: Views from the Region” and includes landscapes and streetscapes by artists Eric Aho, Tim Allen, Carolyn DiNicola-Fawley, Jim Giddings, Charlie Hunter, Julia Jensen, Paul Stone, Lydia Thomson, Christine Triebert, and Jim Urbaska. An opening reception, free and open to the general public, is scheduled for Wednesday, September 18 at 5:30 p.m. The artwork in the exhibit will be available for sale, with proceeds shared by the artists, the hospital, and the museum. Pricing and information about how to purchase the exhibited artwork is available at the BMH cardiology suite, at www.brattleboromuseum.org/exhibits/art-for-the-heart/(link is external), or by calling 802-257-0124, ext. 101.According to Williams, “A Sense of Place: Views from the Region” will be up for approximately six months. Subsequent exhibits will focus on only one or two artists each. Artists wishing to be considered for exhibition should submit an application online at www.brattleboromuseum.org/exhibits/art-for-the-heart/(link is external).Dr. Rebecca Jones, a Brattleboro dermatologist who serves on the BMAC board, applauds this new collaboration between Brattleboro’s art museum and hospital. “After all,” she says, “art and creativity are at the heart of health and well being.”Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. The museum’s exhibits and gift shop are open Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 11-5; Friday: 11-7;Saturday: 10-5. Regular admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for students. Members and children under 6 are admitted free of charge. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information call 802-257-0124 or visit www.brattleboromuseum.org(link is external).Major support for BMAC is provided by its members and Entergy Vermont Yankee, Foard Panel, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, People’s United Bank, Brattleboro Ford Subaru, and Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery.last_img read more

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Vermont Asbestos Group agrees to environmental mitigation and to assist state in pursuing insurance funds

first_imgThe State of Vermont has filed in federal district court a settlement agreement with the Vermont Asbestos Group, Inc (VAG) to address hazardous asbestos-containing materials from the company’s inactive mine site in Eden and Lowell. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is also a party to the agreement.Under the agreement, which is subject to approval by the court, the State will recover certain past expenses for mitigation work performed at the site. VAG will maintain the site’s environmental corrective structures for the next ten years. VAG has also agreed to work with the State and EPA to recover money from its insurance policies. Money recovered will go to the State and EPA to help cover past and future clean-up costs.‘This settlement benefits Vermonters and the environment by helping to deal with this very large site,’ said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. ‘The settlement will help protect the site. The settlement will also assist in recovering additional monies to cover environmental costs in the future,’ Attorney General Sorrell added.In 2009, the State entered into a consent decree with the successor to GAF Corporation, G-1 Holdings, Inc., owner of the mine prior to VAG. The consent decree addressed pollution claims, as part of G-1’s bankruptcy proceeding.Notice of the settlement with VAG will be published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2013. This will start the 30-day public comment period.Source: Vermont Attorney General, September 5, 2013last_img read more

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VITL announces 2013 summit; focus on data-driven health care reform

first_imgData-driven health care reform is the focus of this year’s Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL) Summit ‘13 conference on Tuesday, September 24 from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm at the Sheraton Burlington on 870 Williston Road in Burlington. The Summit is open to VITL member organizations and health care professionals from across Vermont.The Summit will feature remarks by Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille as well as various breakout sessions during the one day event, including a presentation on Meaningful Use by Paul Klintworth with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.  The ONC is under the auspices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services which is the entity responsible for building an electronic National Health Information Network.           ‘Health information exchange networks, electronic health records and clinical decision support tools are changing the way health care services are being delivered and VITL Summit ‘13 will examine the data-driven health care reform underway throughout the state of Vermont as well as at the national and global levels,’ said John K. Evans, president and CEO, VITL. ‘The VITL Summit provides an opportunity for Vermont’s health care community to come together to discuss best practices, lessons learned, the state of health information technology and health information exchange.’          Topics for the breakout sessions include presentations and discussions on the status of Vermont’s health information network (the VHIE), VITL Access (provider portal) and patient consent, clinical decision support, accountable care organizations, the Blueprint for Health, patient portals and mobile applications among others.The keynote speech will be delivered by Paul Biondich, MD, MS, a medical informatics researcher and pediatrician whose research interests include informatics interventions in resource constrained environments, decision support systems, and controlled medical vocabularies.Dr. Biondich is the co-founder and project lead of OpenMRS, an open source community responsible for developing a medical record system platform to support underserved populations, which is currently deployed in over 40 countries throughout the world. Dr. Biondich also holds a research position at Indiana University and the Regenstrief Institute.Exhibits featuring the latest health information products and services will be on display. To view the Summit agenda as well as to register, please visit www.vitlsummit.net(link is external).About VITLVermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL) is a non-profit organization that assists Vermont health care providers statewide with adopting and using health information technology to improve the quality of care delivery as well as to enhance patient safety and outcomes. Comprised of a collaborative group of stakeholders including health plans, hospitals, physicians, other health care providers, state government, employers, and consumers, VITL is the designated health information exchange (HIE) for the state of Vermont and also the state’s federally-designated regional extension center. For more information, please visit www.vitl.net(link is external).last_img read more

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Vermont GOP Chairman Lindley won’t seek re-election

first_imgThree days before the Vermont Republican Party is scheduled to choose its chair for the next two years, Jack Lindley, the current holder of that position, let it be known that he won’t seek re-election. Instead, Lindley will throw his weight behind one of his two challengers ‘ John MacGovern.MacGovern, a Windsor resident, ran against Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, in 2012, receiving 25 percent of the vote. He has also run for a state senate seat twice, both times unsuccessfully.Related storyVermont GOP at crossroads.Vermont Republican Party Chairman Jack Lindley at campaign headquarters on election night in 2012. Photo by Nat RudarakanchanaLindley’s decision likely makes the race a showdown between MacGovern and David Sunderland, a former state legislator, who is backed by Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and other Republican leaders in the Legislature.The latter group wants to distance the Vermont GOP from the national party platform. MacGovern and Lindley strongly oppose that approach.‘I don’t want those people taking over the party. The instinct of incumbents is to stop talking about issues that are difficult,’ MacGovern said during an interview last week. ‘Those issues can activate the base, which is essential to winning the election.’Sunderland, Scott and the lawmakers who support them say the party should shelve contentious social issues that are in play at the national level. MacGovern, meanwhile, says Republicans shouldn’t clam up about those topics.‘I’ve not focused about social issues during my campaigns, but people always ask you about and you have to talk to them,’ he said. ‘The fight over marriage is an important fight. And ‘right to life,’ ‘ you can’t throw those children overboard just because it’s controversial.’MacGovern entered the race before he knew whether Lindley would run for election. MacGovern said last week that he was seeking Lindley’s position not because he disagreed with the chairman’s views, but because Lindley hadn’t done enough to develop voter databases and other election resources. ‘I like Jack Lindley, I like him a lot, but I think there are things that can and be should done better,’ MacGovern said.Lindley, who is recovering from a serious illness, cited his health as the reason he’s not seeking a second term. At the end of last week, he was still undecided about whether he would enter the race.The Vermont Press Bureau first reported the decision Wednesday evening, based on an email Lindley sent to party members.last_img read more

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Republican legislative leaders call on Shumlin to extend health care exchange deadline by one year

first_imgby Anne Galloway vtdigger.org Republican leaders in the House and Senate are calling on Governor Peter Shumlin to delay implementation of mandated insurance coverage for individuals and small businesses under the state’s health care exchange until December 31, 2014.In a letter to Shumlin, Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton and minority whip of the House, and Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, demanded that the governor grant Vermonters a one year reprieve from the legal mandate until the exchange system is ‘perfected.’‘It is obvious that the system now intended to connect Vermonters to their new health insurance is not fully operational,’ Turner and Benning wrote. ‘None of us are sure of when it will be so. Too many Vermonters, now with insurance, are needlessly anxious about whether they will be able to retain any insurance at all while the system is fixed. The system should be fully operational before mandates are applied.’Turner and Benning have introduced bills in the House and the Senate, respectively to delay implementation of the mandate until 2014.They encouraged the governor, to institute a one-year delay ‘if it is within your power to grant this delay’ without legislative approval.In a statement issued to media outlets on Wednesday night, Turner and Benning said Vermonters should have access to current insurance plans while the state improves the Vermont Health Connect system.‘We strongly feel this is the only way to ensure that Vermonters will have access to quality health care services and affordable health insurance on Jan. 1, 2014, and beyond,’ they wrote. ‘The well-being of Vermonters is still at risk. It’s our job to represent their interests as we promised. We will continue to do our jobs and today we take another step that will result in a positive outcome for Vermonters. Vermonters deserve it.’Individuals who purchase insurance on their own and companies with 50 or fewer employees must buy medical coverage through the exchange by March 31. Companies have the option to buy exchange plans directly from the insurers.The original deadline for signing up for the exchange was Dec. 31. Shumlin announced an extension of the deadline last week. Technical problems and delays plaguing the Web-based exchange forced the administration to offer new options.Business owners must decide by Nov. 25 if they want to extend current benefits to employees through March 31.Small businesses can buy exchange plans directly from one of the two insurers ‘ Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care ‘ or make no decision and allow the insurer to choose a plan that most closely resembles the business’ current one.The administration is automatically extending state-subsidized Catamount and VHAP plans for low-income Vermonters who are already enrolled in the plans through March 31.Last month Benning and Turner called on legislative leaders and the governor to use the safety provision in Act 171 to extend the deadline for mandatory coverage under the exchange if the system wasn’t operational by Dec. 1, 2013. Shortly afterward, House Speaker Shap Smith says he persuaded the Shumlin administration to announce their contingency plan.Vermont is the only state in the nation that has made it mandatory for a segment of the population ‘ 100,000 citizens ‘ to enroll in the exchange program.As of Wednesday, 3,401 Vermonters had chosen an exchange plan, according to Emily Yahr, the public information officer for Vermont Health Connect.Turner said he tried to enroll his family on the exchange this week and the site wasn’t working. He had to fill out a paper form with a navigator instead.‘The governor’s actions puts us in limbo,’ Turner said. ‘People don’t know what is going to happen after March. Since we already moved to March 31, we’re hoping he will move the deadline to the end of the year.’Business owners are exasperated and too few Vermonters are signing up, Benning said, and ‘unless people flock to enroll with a system that’s operational we have a major problem.’‘The system is not ready for prime time,’ Benning said in an interview. ‘Everyone agrees with that, it doesn’t matter what party label you carry.’When asked whether he would consider a year delay for mandatory participation in the exchange, Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, chair of the House Health Care Committee said there were good policy reasons for Act 171, and ‘opponents will use every opportunity to express their opposition.‘Despite significant issues we’re in the middle of, it’s my hope these are transitional problems and not structural problems,’ Fisher said.Fisher says if low enrollment continues to be a problem, ‘Everything is on the table.’The New York Times reported Thursday that President Barack Obama was poised to announce an ‘administrative fix’ to the Affordable Care Act that would allow insurers to extend non-qualifying health care coverage through next year.last_img read more

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Weekly unemployment claims edge up over 800

first_imgNew unemployment claims were up slightly and back over 800 claims. For’ the week of November 23, 2013, there were 805 new, regular benefit claims for Unemployment Insurance in Vermont. This is an increase of 16 from the previous week’s total, and 817 fewer than they were a year ago.Altogether 5,821’  new and continuing claims were filed, an increase of 337 from a week ago and 993 fewer than a year ago. The Department also processed 727 First Tier claims for benefits under Emergency Unemployment Compensation, 2008 (EUC08), 31 more than the same number as a week ago.In addition, there were 16 Second Tier claims for benefits processed under the EUC08 program, which is 4 more than the week before. The Tier III program of extended benefits is being discontinued in Vermont as the state’s’ unemployment rate has been under the federal threshold for more than three months. ‘ The total for all programs was 6,571 claims, 370 more than last week but 1,492 fewer than the same time last year.The Unemployment Weekly Report can be found at:’ http://www.vtlmi.info/(link is external). Previously released Unemployment Weekly Reports and other UI reports can be found at:’ http://www.vtlmi.info/lmipub.htm#uc(link is external)’ Vermont’s unemployment rate fell one-tenth to 4.5 percent in October, the first drop in five months.’  SEE’ STORY.last_img read more

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