Protect and Expand Affordable Health Care

During the last legislative session, the House Health Care Committee continued its attempt to lower drug prices for all Vermonters. Currently, because of the passage of S.175 (Act 133), Vermont is seeking federal approval to import drugs from Canada. This law has the Agency of Human Services design a wholesale prescription drug importation program, including requirements for safety and cost. The law directs the state to seek the appropriate federal waivers. And, it asks the state Attorney General to identify the potential, and to monitor for anticompetitive behavior in industries that would be affected by the wholesale drug importation program.

The legislature also passed a bill, S.92 (Act 193) on Drug Cost Transparency, which requires the state to identify annually up to 10 prescription drugs on which the state spends significant health care dollars and where the wholesale cost has increased by 50 percent or more over the past five years, or more than 15 percent over the past year. The Attorney General will then require the manufacturer to provide a justification for each drug’s increase.

Other issues of significance to constituents are:

  • Reducing co-payments for chiropractic and physical therapy for chronic pain. This law (Act 7, Special Session) moves us forward in our efforts to reduce opioid use by providing access to more effective treatments for chronic pain, and to comply with state statute that requires chiropractic co-payments be reasonable.

  • Breast imaging without cost sharing. This law (Act 141) provides for the coverage of mammograms and 3D mammograms without cost sharing.

The Legislature also passed a bill, H.696 (Act 182), on the Individual Mandate for health insurance, which was spurred by a change at the federal level. Due to a tax overhaul passed by Congress last year, the financial penalty for the federal individual mandate is scheduled to disappear at the beginning of 2019.

Act 182 creates the Individual Mandate Working Group composed of various state departments and called for by the Green Mountain Care Board to determine such things as a financial penalty, enforcement, exemptions, and types of insurance considered minimum. After months of study, the working group came up with preliminary recommendations but could not agree on whether those who don’t buy health insurance should face financial penalties.

The final recommendations of the working group are due Nov. 1. Comments can be submitted until this Friday via email at imwgcomments@vtlegalaid.org, or by phone at 802-828-5322.