Grause: Health care reform is moving forward

first_imgby Bea Grause Vermont’s regulators have just about finished their annual review and approval of hospital budgets, so naturally there has been a lot of dialogue about the work hospitals are doing to create a system where everyone gets care they can afford, from the hospital and doctor of their choice. Vermont’s hospitals are doing what Vermonters have asked them to do. We’ve held spending growth to historic lows for the third consecutive year.  We are improving the delivery and coordination of care within hospitals and throughout our communities. And we are ensuring access for everyone – regardless of ability to pay.  RELATED STORY: Vermont hospital budgets up 3.5 percent for FY2016But there’s more work to do to make care, and insurance, affordable for everyone.Advancing payment reform and building community partnerships are top priorities for Vermont’s hospital leaders. They are figuring out how to change how providers are paid in order to realign our health care systems’ incentives away from intervention and toward prevention. It’s a win-win for Vermonters – better health and healthcare, and reduced costs over time.   Community-based efforts to improve health and access to primary care will help decrease the need for hospital care. Payment reform will support this work and will also ensure that our hospitals can continue to serve Vermonters whenever they are needed.  We believe this simultaneous effort is the way forward, and that it is the best way to help Vermont contain growth in health care spending to a level that is consistent with growth in the economy.As caregivers, we are pushing ahead on these reforms because we understand that Vermonters need relief from rising health care costs – now.  The complexity and magnitude of these efforts cannot be an excuse for inaction because we simply cannot afford to wait. Creating lasting improvement in the health of Vermonters begins with shared leadership in our communities – a responsibility we take seriously.  Earlier this year, the Prevention Institute, a national nonprofit focused on community health, compared healthcare delivery and payment reform efforts in Vermont communities with national case studies. In their findings, they noted that the leadership of Vermont’s hospitals is unique among states working to reform health care through community prevention efforts. “Unlike the national case studies, it is notable that Vermont hospitals frequently serve as the integrator and not merely a… participant.” We understand that addressing the unique health needs of our largely rural state will require the leadership of many health care and community leaders.  We are learning from them and want to support the work we need to do together.In Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, Northwestern Medical Center is helping to tackle obesity through a community partnership called Rise Vermont. The hospital has deployed health advocates throughout the community, leading exercise groups and helping businesses; schools and municipalities adopt healthy practices and start their own health programs. It’s just one example of how hospitals are working as community partners to improve health.Health challenges like obesity have to be tackled locally in order to reduce the incidence of other costly diseases like diabetes and heart disease.  The challenge we face as a state is that we need to bring health care costs down by getting healthier ourselves. Support for healthier choices must exist in our homes, schools, our offices and our hospitals. There’s no other way.Our approach is uniquely Vermont – everyone is at the table. We need to stay on this course over the coming months and years, as we work together to improve health, expand coverage, reduce costs, and maintain access to hospitals and doctors of choice for every Vermonter.Bea Grause, President and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS)last_img read more

Vermont tax revenues take a beating, off nearly 10 percent

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The Personal Income tax, by far the state’s most important General Fund revenue source, was below its target by over $25 million for April. The PI had been running ahead of annual projections, but has now fallen over $11 million behind with only two months left in the fiscal year. The Sales and Rooms & Meals taxes also were below targets. The only component now ahead for the year is the Corporate tax, which was up for the month over 34 percent and for the year nearly 19 percent.Overall, General Fund revenues collected for the month of April totaled $201.10 million, which is -$21.65 million, or 9.7 percent, below the consensus monthly revenue target adopted by the Emergency Board on January 19, 2017, according to Secretary of Administration Susanne Young. The poor performance in April was driven by a -$25.34 shortfall in the Personal Income Tax. The Corporate Tax for April finished ahead of projections by +$3.94. April marks the 10th month of FY2017.Through these first 10 months, total receipts for the General Fund are -$3.55 million below projections, or $1,237.75 million against a target of $1,241.30 million. This does not take into account up to $16 million of pending Corporate Tax refund requests currently under review.“We knew that our revenue picture for the fiscal year would come into focus at the end of April,” said Young. “Unfortunately, while we ended March with a $18.1 million positive position, the April revenue downturn has moved us to a net negative $3.5 million position.”“The lower-than-expected tax receipts in April coupled with relatively flat receipts in Meals and Rooms and Sales and Use taxes with only two months left in the fiscal year is a concern. I will not be surprised to see a revenue downgrade in July as new consensus targets are established,” added Young.The Transportation Fund collected $22.91 million for the month of April, which is -$1.47 million below its $24.38 million target. This underperformance was driven by a decrease across all revenue streams within the fund. Year-to-date receipts in the Transportation Fund are $216.19 million against a target of $219.16.Governor Phil Scott’s Communications Director Rebecca Kelley said in a statement: “Today’s report on April revenue collections is yet another reminder of the significant economic challenges Vermont faces. With the April revenue downturn and only two months left in the fiscal year, we face a potential budget gap at year end.“Coupling this trend with our shrinking workforce and decline in K-12 student populations, it is more important than ever to focus on growing the economy and making Vermont more affordable – priorities the Governor has set for his Administration. We cannot afford to ignore these trends, and we must recognize that the status quo will not reverse them.“With the potential for a shortfall, it is clear the state cannot afford an FY2018 budget that spends a single penny we do not need to spend. That’s why the Governor feels it would be irresponsible to leave up to $26 million in property tax savings on the table, which the state could realize through school districts’ more affordable health plans.“Governor Scott will continue to work with the Legislature on this proposal, and other savings opportunities, to put the state in the best position to reverse these trends.”The Education Fund collected $15.75 million for the month of April, which is -$1.22 million below its $16.97 million target.Compared to revenues collected at this point in FY2016, there is an increase of 2.42%, or +$29.26 million in the General Fund; a 1.28%, or $2.73 million increase in the Transportation Fund; and a -0.01%, or -$0.01 million decrease in the Education Fund.last_img read more

Insurance non-profit pledges to match support for racial justice organizations

first_imgBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont,Vermont Business Magazine In commemoration of Juneteenth, 2020 the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont Diversity and Inclusion Council announced today that the non-profit will match the proceeds of an employee-led fundraiser for Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington and the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont said in a statement today that they condemn racism and systemic oppression and stands in solidarity with other local Vermont institutions and organizations to proactively disrupt the status quo. Furthermore, they believe the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are a result of long-standing aggression and racial profiling dating back generations. Remaining silent in the face of overt acts of violence, daily micro aggressions, and injustice towards people of color reinforces and perpetuates this deeply entrenched system. “We will not remain silent.”“We are launching this fundraiser today to stand in support of the local leaders who are raising their voices for racial justice,” says Megan Peek, Director of Community Relations at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. “It is long past time for our society to collectively rise against senseless racial violence and begin to take concrete steps to address the health disparities faced by people of color. We support societal racial justice reforms through community-led policies and education.”As America gathers to protest systemic racism, we are galvanized to listen, speak up, and stand strong alongside one another to fight for what is right and what is just. If one person is harmed, we are all harmed.  This is our pledge to all Vermonters: First and foremost, we pledge to act. We will work with our Diversity and Inclusion Council to identify opportunities for growth within our organization and develop concrete steps to closing these gaps. From implicit bias training to hiring practices, we will work with leading organizations to educate ourselves about white privilege and how to support anti-racism work every day and through every interaction.We pledge to listen and learn. As health care leaders we promise to make a dedicated commitment to understanding and addressing factors that cause African Americans to suffer more than half of the COVID-19 cases and nearly 60 percent of deaths nationwide. We will seek out, listen to, and support advocates and organizations to end racial violence and oppression.We pledge to be part of the change we wish to see. We will work to support our partner organizations in their efforts to address racial bias and health disparities in communities throughout Vermont, including Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington(link is external), the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance(link is external), and Governor Phil Scott’s Racial Equity Task Force(link is external).  Furthermore, we support the Floyd family’s call to create a national task force that would establish bipartisan legislation focused on ending racial violence and increasing police accountability. We will call on elected officials to commit to a process of healing and we will refuse to support leaders who perpetuate messages of division.Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont(link is external) is Vermont’s only local, not-for-profit health plan. For over 70 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont has been enhancing the health and well-being of the Vermonters by offering innovative plans to individuals, seniors and businesses.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is dedicated to developing new ways to support high quality care and programs and events that promote wellness. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit www.bcbsvt.com(link is external).Connect with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont:Twitter: @bcbsvt(link is external)             Instagram: @bcbsvt(link is external)Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bcbsvt(link is external)LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/blue-cross-and-blue-shield-of-vermont(link is external)Source: Berlin, VT, June 19, 2020—Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermontlast_img read more

Jim Poplinger enters race for Fairway mayor, setting up contest against fellow councilmember Melanie Hepperly

first_imgAt least two longtime Fairway city councilmembers will be squaring off to replace Mayor Jerry Wiley this November.Ward 1 councilmember Jim Poplinger this week filed as a candidate in the city’s mayoral election. His Ward 1 counterpart Melanie Hepperly was the first to file in the race back in March.Poplinger has served on the council since 2007, and was elected to a third term in office in 2015. He currently serves as chair of the Administration Committee, as well as in roles on the Finance and Police Committees.Professionally, Poplinger is the president of Avlex Corporation, which he founded in 1999 after having previously served as legal counsel at Western Auto Supply Company. Avlex is a supplier of professional audio products. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business and political science from the University of Kansas and a law degree from the University of Tulsa.He and his wife Nancy have lived in the city for more than 40 years, and have three children and two grandchildren. He’s active with Boy Scout Troop 192 out of Old Mission United Methodist Church, and is a member of Village Presbyterian Church.Poplinger has not returned a call seeking comment on his motivations for entering the race. We’ll update this post when we get in touch with him.last_img read more

Congress must act on merchant data security standards, House/Senate leaders urged

first_imgCredit Union National Association President/CEO Jim Nussle, in conjunction with six financial service organizations, sent a letter to U.S. Senate and House leadership Wednesday emphasizing that now is the time for retailers to take responsibility for their data breaches and adopt the same data standards as financial institutions.Merchants must stop putting consumers and their confidential personal financial information in the hands of criminals, the letter said.The letter is addressed to Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). It was sent to the legislators just as they were returning to Washington, D.C., after the mid-term election District Work Session.On Nov. 6, retailers sent a letter to those lawmakers saying that legislation addressing the threat of data breaches must “cover all of the types of entities that handle sensitive information.”The CUNA letter rebutted the retailers’ missive. continue reading » ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Blind People Can Echolocate

first_imgSmithsonian Magazine:Like bats, some blind people utilize echolocation—bouncing sound waves off objects to locate where they are—as a means of assessing and interacting with their surroundings. To do this, some snap their fingers, while others click their tongues, Health Canal writes. While researchers have known about this skill for years, the degree to which it stands in for vision is poorly understood.Neuroscientists from Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute recently discovered that echolocation is a much closer substitute for vision that originally assumed. As they report in the journal Psychological Science, echolocation is so tightly associated with vision that it succumbs to the same shortcomings as that sense.Read the whole story: Smithsonian Magazinelast_img read more

CARICOM to push positions on key issues as COP21 enters second week

first_imgThe need for an Internationally legally binding agreement;A long-term temperature goal of below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels;Loss and damage to be included as a separate and distinct element from Adaptation in the agreementA strong commitment by developed countries to scale up financingSpecial circumstances of Small Island and Low-lying developing States recognisedThe REDD Plus agreement should be anchored in the agreementProvisions to support the adaptation needs of vulnerable developing countries >#CARICOMatCOP21, Paris France: CARICOM Ministers of Government and Negotiators met Monday to set the stage for a final push in negotiations around several key issues at COP 21 in Paris, France.The Region has strong negotiating positions on several key issues, including: CARICOM Climate Change Ministers meet to chart way forward CARICOM, Australia strengthen ties Mar 10, 2016 A final agreement is expected by Friday 11 December. Share this:PrintTwitterFacebookLinkedInLike this:Like Loading… You may be interested in… After successful COP 21 CARICOM Climate Change Ministers… Feb 12, 2016 Feb 12, 2016 Jul 5, 2016 Suriname President encourages Region to diversify economic… Ensure implementation of Paris Agreement provisionsCaribbean Community (CARICOM) Chairman, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados, on Tuesday applauded the historic adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and called for its provisions to be implemented. The task now is to ensure that the provisions of this legally-binding Agreement are implemented.  The international community must now retain…December 15, 2015In “Barbados”CARICOM negotiators push key issues as COP 21 releases draft agreementAs negotiators review a preliminary draft agreement issued Wednesday at the UN Climate Change conference, COP 21, in Paris, CARICOM Ministers and Heads of delegations are pressing for outstanding concerns to be adequately represented in the final outcome agreement, due on Friday. At the top of the list is the…December 9, 2015In “CARICOM”Strong regional collaboration credited for CARICOM’s successful Climate Change campaign  CARICOM’s well prepared and experienced team of negotiators, and a focused, unified campaign, helped the Caribbean Community get its red line climate change issues all represented in the final Agreement at the just ended Climate Change conference, COP 21, in Paris, France. And, CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has…December 18, 2015In “CARICOM”Share this on WhatsApplast_img read more

Jemez Mountains Electric Co-op Building For Future

first_imgConstruction underway at Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. Photo by James R. Mountain/valleydailypost.comInterim General Manager Andrew J. Chavez shows a rendering of the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. construction project. Photo by James R. Mountain/valleydailypost.com By JAMES R. MOUNTAINValley Daily PostJemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. broke ground in May on new buildingConstruction of a new home for the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative, Inc. (JMEC) is well underway.JMEC was finally able to break ground in the spring after concluding a Request for Proposal process that was vetted back to May of 2017 and awarded to general contractor Bradbury Stamm Construction for the design-build of the new facility. Several changes occurred in May at JMEC with the beginning of construction and the appointment of Interim General Manager Andrew J. Chavez.Chavez took over after GM Donna Montoya-Trujillo submitted her resignation in early May. Chavez brings several years of experience as an employee at JMEC including serving for 11 years as director of Information Technology. Taking on the interim role of GM, Chavez expressed his excitement with the projects and forward path of JMEC.“I certainly look forward to the future of Jemez Mountain Electric Cooperative, the undertakings of the Board, the quality of services, and the affordable services JMEC provides in power,” he said.  The Valley Daily Post recently visited with Chavez and toured construction progress on the new building to replace the outdated facility.“The original building has served its purpose. A new building is well deserved for the community,” Chavez said.The new 2-story building will encompass approximately 31,000 square feet and house updated facilities and the appropriate technological infrastructure necessary to best service JMEC customers into the future. The completion date is scheduled for the end of summer 2020.Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative (JMEC) was founded in 1947. The co-op began as a small hydropower generating station in Jemez Springs serving three families. Today, JMEC is the largest electric co-op in the state serving consumers in the five counties of Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, San Juan, McKinley and Sandoval. The current building was engineered and built in 1960.last_img read more

Norway: Workers Evacuated from Tilted Rig

first_imgSixty-three workers have been evacuated as the semisubmersible rig, Island Innovator, began taking on water earlier today. One worker has been slightly injured, local news portal Bergens Tidende reports.Apparently the incident occurred during work on the hull of the rig. The water was entering the pump room of the rig instead of going into the ballast tanks, which caused tilting of the rig for four degrees.Gisle Johanson, Director of Communications at Odfjell Drilling, said to Bergens Tidende, that the incident is under investigation, and that it is important to find out what went wrong and learn from it, in order to prevent something similar from happening in the future.The rig, owned by Stavanger-based Marine Accurate Well ASA and operated by Odfjell Drilling, arrived at Bergen Group’s yard at Hanoytangen for some additional work and testing and it was supposed to head to the North Sea for drilling work.The Island Innovator was built by COSCO shipyard and delivered in September 2012.The rig operator, Odfjell Drilling, reported that the inlet has been plugged and the rig stabilized by the ballasting system. Further work is done to secure and normalize the situation on the rig.[mappress]World Maritime News Staff, May 31, 2013last_img read more