The recent legislative session was overshadowed by the economic crisis, depleted state revenues and the 2010 budget. The Governor’s budget included significant cuts in human service programs and the legislature ultimately rejected it with a historic veto override vote. They passed their own version which AARP supported as fiscally responsible while preserving critical services and programs for older and vulnerable Vermonters.
Many AARP Vermont priorities made it all the way through the House and Senate this year thanks to the support and activism of many AARP volunteers.
Here’s a brief wrap-up.
Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Highlights
The low-income senior pharmacy program, known as VPharm, which Governor Douglas proposed to eliminate in his 2010 budget, was virtually spared by the House and Senate with only small co-pays added ($1 or $2 for each prescription). However, a provision was also added stating that a pharmacist may not refuse to fill a VPharm prescription simply because the consumer cannot afford the co-pay.
Improving Catamount Health Plan
This bill lowers the plan's high deductible threshold from $10,000 to $7500 for an individual, allowing more under-insured Vermonters to switch to the Catamount Health Plan.
The bill allows depreciation to be included when calculating eligibility for Catamount Health and VHAP. This is huge step that will help Vermont farmers and other self employed people to gain access to health care.
The bill allows self-employed people in the non-group market (specifically those who are not in an association or small group plans) to skip the waiting period if they drop their insurance because they close their business.
Banning Most Gifts from Drug and Device Manufacturers to Prescribers
In the final hours of the 2009 session, the Vermont Senate and House agreed on a sweeping law to close loopholes in the state's existing gift and payment disclosure law, and to ban many gifts from manufacturers of prescription drugs, medical devices and biological products. The gift ban includes food and free meals to all health care providers and prescribers. The bill mandates full disclosure of allowable gifts to physicians, health care organizations, non-profit groups and state-funded academic institutions. It requires ensures a higher degree of transparency in the state's health care system.
Despite heavy lobbying by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, the legislation received broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, and was supported by organizations including AARP, the Vermont Medical Society and Vermont Public Interest Research Group. The Governor signed the bill in June.
Capped Out of Pocket Costs for Colorectal Cancer Screening
This bill requires health insurers to cover colorectal cancer screenings once every 10 years for those over age 50 with the co-payment capped at $100 for the patient. This bill was passed and signed into law.
This bill establishes that patients have rights to palliative medical care, meaning pain relief, without having to cease curative care. The bill was passed and signed into law.
Financial Services Consumer Protections for Older Vermonters
This bill creates consumer protections for older Vermonters who seek financial services through reverse mortgage lending and life settlement brokers.