Vermont Legislature Passes Health Care Bill

 The differences between the House and Senate version of S.88, Vermont’s main health care bill, have been reconciled. The bill final bill, which is critical to Vermont’s health care reform efforts, passed the Senate on May 11, 2010 by a vote of 25-4.  It marks an important step forward in our goal of ensuring that all Vermonters have access to high-quality, affordable health care.  The bill is expected to reach the Governor’s desk soon and VPIRG is hopeful that it will be signed into law.
There is a lot to the bill, but we want to share with you three key reasons why VPIRG has supported it.
(1) It allows Vermonters to be part of the process of choosing our health care system by designing three options that would each ensure universal access to quality health care.  The three designs will be completed by early in the next legislative session so that action can be taken next year. A single payer plan and a public option are among the designs included in the House bill.
(2) It improves the coordination of services for Vermonters with chronic health conditions by expanding the state’s Blueprint for Health and Community Health Systems pilot program. This program uses care teams and payments innovations to help primary-care doctors deliver more preventative medicine and better manage chronic conditions.
(3) It institutes cost control measures which should help keep hospital costs from rising so quickly across the state.
(4) It provides for greater transparency in the distribution of pharmaceutical samples to medical practices across the state.  While the bill does not limit or regulate the distribution of drug samples to physicians, it does help us keep a closer eye on how the marketing of high priced, brand-name drugs may impact rising health care costs. 
The best part of all is that this bill won’t add anything to Vermont’s deficit, which is welcome news during this challenging budget year.
In this tough economic climate, we know many Vermonters are suffering the impact of financial hardship. The sleepless nights that accompany the fear of unpaid bills, strapped budgets and empty wallets take a significant toll and the well being of hard-working Vermonters and their families. Access to affordable health services should not contribute to these worries.  S.88 will help address these concerns and ensure that Vermont will once again lead the nation by making one of the most progressive health care systems in the country, even better.