Legislature Wraps-up; VAHHS's Ongoing Work
We can now officially say that the 2017 legislative session has concluded. Following an impasse over teacher health care contracts, legislators had to return last week to finalize a state budget. Those negotiations did not result in any changes for hospitals despite noise that some of this year's debates (especially around Medicaid disproportionate share payment cuts) would be reignited.
The session was tough at times, but never deterred us from making our case for fair and responsible payment, for an improved mental health system, and for laws that build on progress in population health. With legislators back home instead of in Montpelier, it will be easier to get a burger and a beer at the Three Penny Taproom, but we won't spend the entire summer there (tempting as it might be). Instead we will continue building relationships with state leaders, publicizing our good work, supporting smart reform efforts, and developing new resources and programs to serve our members.
In that spirit, I am pleased to announce that later this year we will share a strategic plan for VAHHS, which will serve as a guidepost for our work in the coming years. The plan is under development now with input from our Board of Trustees and others from across the state including physicians, administrators, partners, communicators and, yes, even lawmakers and regulators. Please watch for more details, and thanks to all who have contributed.
Changes at the federal level will affect our planning. The Senate's version of the Affordable Care Act repeal is the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which is, by some measures, worse than the House bill that preceded it. Millions stand to lose health insurance coverage, and the system itself will be subject to continued uncertainty. Hospitals too will suffer if Medicaid is drastically cut and recent coverage expansions are reversed. While Vermont's delegation is not critical to Senate passage of the bill, it never hurts to raise your voice and let lawmakers know where you stand - as health care provider, patient, U.S. citizen, and Vermonter. The Coalition to Protect America's Health Care makes it easy.
Finally, if you've indulged me this long ... I always want to reinforce that our story is a good one. As hospitals and providers, your work saves lives. It strengthens families and communities. It addresses social challenges. And it is meaningful for your employees and patients alike. Bottom line, we make a real difference every day. For VAHHS, it is an ongoing priority to remind legislators and Vermonters of that fact.
President and CEO, VAHHS