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Legislative Update 3-11-19

March 08, 2019

Last week, all the legislators were out for Town Meeting Week.  They’ve talked to their constituents, rested up, and now they’re heading back to the State House for a fast-paced week before the “crossover” deadline on Friday, when all policy bills must be voted out of their committee to cross over to the other body of the legislature and continue on the path to becoming a law.  The budget and tax bills have an additional week to work their way through the House Appropriations and House Ways & Means Committees because they need time to incorporate funding for any policy bills that may need to be included.

Most years, we have a clear sense of which bills are moving and which bills are not moving at this point.  However, there are so many bills out there, that it is difficult to tell whether the legislative committees will just hold some until next year or pass a bunch in quick succession in order to make the deadline.  The big priority for the Senate this year was passage of an increase in the minimum wage, which it did the week prior to Town Meeting.  It now moves to the House for consideration, where there appears to be some concern on the impact to Medicaid providers.  The top priority for the House this year was passage of a paid family leave bill.  It is currently being reviewed by the House Ways & Means Committee, where there is a possibility the committee may temper the bill, which currently requires 12 weeks of 100% wage replacement. Here are some of the other issues we are following this week:

Expansion of Medicaid Dental Benefit: Prior to Town Meeting Week, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed out S.94, an expansion of the Medicaid dental benefit.  This week, the bill will likely head to the money committees to determine how to fund the effort

The changes include:

Two preventive visits per year with no co-pay
For other services, a maximum of $1,000 per year.  This is a significant increase from the current benefit of $510 per year.
The bill also calls for a working group to explore: reimbursement rates to dental providers; a wraparound dental program for Medicare recipients; and reimbursement for teledentistry.

Health Insurance Market Stabilization: The House Health Care committee went through this bill prior to Town Meeting Week and will likely pass it out quickly.  It initially had some controversial items, including lifting protections for preexisting conditions in cases where individuals go uninsured and exploration of age rating.  VAHHS advocated against these proposals.  Now, the bill contains proposals aligned with the Affordable Care Act and maintaining Vermont’s status quo, including:

A financial penalty for the uninsured crafted after the Affordable Care Act’s financial penalty
Other Affordable Care Act protections such as prohibiting exclusion of coverage for preexisting condition and no out of pocket costs for preventive services
Small employers in association plans are considered as part of the small group risk pool rather than the large group risk pool
A study on affordability of Vermont’s health care coverage

Devon Green, VP of Government Relations, VAHHS