Thursday, January 5, 2017

Walters: Rambur Leaves Green Mountain Care Board

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 2:03 PM

Vermont Statehouse - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Vermont Statehouse
Governor Phil Scott will get the chance to make an immediate impact on health care regulation in Vermont, as two of the five members of the Green Mountain Care Board are stepping down.

GMCB chair Al Gobeille is leaving the board to become Agency of Human Services secretary. Board member Betty Rambur is resigning effective January 15 to move out of state. “This is a completely personal decision,” she told Seven Days. “My husband-to-be lives in Rhode Island, and I have an opportunity for a position there. The stars just lined up.”

Indeed, she’d thought about resigning in September, but “we wouldn’t have had a quorum” because Dr. Allan Ramsay had just resigned and Con Hogan was on medical leave. “A lot of health care decisions are made in September, and the board would have been unable to do its work,” she said.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Walters: GOP Leader ‘Concerned’ About Scott’s Shumlin Holdovers

Posted By on Mon, Jan 2, 2017 at 8:59 AM

House Minority Leader Don Turner - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Minority Leader Don Turner
Don’t look now, but the honeymoon might be over before it began.

“I’m becoming increasingly concerned,” Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton), the House minority leader, says of GOP governor-elect Phil Scott’s burgeoning administration. “I wanted to see a Republican governor who wanted to make changes.”

Turner is specifically “concerned” about the large number of extended cabinet members Scott has retained from the outgoing administration of Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. And Turner says he’s not alone.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

CHT Buys Motel to House Hospital Patients, Homeless

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:12 AM

University of Vermont Medical Center main campus - COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT MEDICAL CENTER
  • Courtesy of University of Vermont Medical Center
  • University of Vermont Medical Center main campus
The University of Vermont Medical Center is investing in a cure for an all-too common patient problem: a lack of housing.

The hospital partnered with Champlain Housing Trust to purchase a Burlington motel that will lodge patients who are homeless or need temporary housing. On Friday, CHT announced its agreement to use donated UVMMC dollars to buy the Bel-Aire Motel on Shelburne Street in Burlington’s South End. The purchase is expected to be finalized this month.

CHT plans to refurbish the motel to create eight apartments that can house 12 people. Permitting and renovations on the property will begin this winter, and the space could ready for tenants by April, CHT officials said.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Court Case Could Clarify Doctors’ Obligations in End-of-Life Law

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 11:44 AM

Vermont legislators debating the end-of-life law - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Vermont legislators debating the end-of-life law
Are Vermont doctors obligated to tell their terminally ill patients that they can request a prescription to hasten their own deaths? That question is at the core of a federal court case.

Three-plus years after a Vermont end-of-life law went into effect, the legal challenge unfolding in Rutland could decide how involved medical professionals have to be in informing patients of the law.

The suit was filed last July by opponents of the 2013 law. It has revealed that the state Attorney General’s Office disagrees with advocates of the law over whether a doctor is obligated to inform patients of the option.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford ruled last week that two terminally ill Vermont patients and two advocacy groups may be heard as interveners in the case.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Morning Read: Globe Series Spotlights a Former Local Doctor

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 9:49 AM

Dr. Giselle Sholler was working at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington a decade ago when she started making a name for herself as a tenacious yet loving physician treating children sickened with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer.

Now based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Sholler’s continued work is the subject of a heart-wrenching five-part series in the Boston Globe titled “The Power of Will.”

I wrote about Sholler’s neuroblastoma research in Burlington in a 2008 article for the Burlington Free Press. Her upbeat bedside manner and her unrelenting willingness to try new treatments made her a magnet for desperate parents of neuroblastoma patients from around the country and abroad.

“It had been quite big news in the neuroblastoma world as to what’s
happening here,” Richard Brown, a father who’d brought his son from London for treatment, told me then.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shumlin: Repealing Obamacare Would Be a ‘Disaster’ for Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin speaking Tuesday - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin speaking Tuesday
If Republican president-elect Donald Trump makes good on his pledge to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it will be a “disaster” for Vermont, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said Tuesday.

In 2010, 8.6 percent of Vermonters lacked health insurance. Last year, the number had dropped to 2.7 percent, the governor said. Vermont has the second lowest rate of uninsured people in the country overall, according to his office.

Vermonters who receive subsidies for their health coverage get a median of $300 per person per month, said Sean Sheehan, director of outreach and education at the Department of Vermont Health Access.

If Trump eliminates the health insurance programs enacted under President Barack Obama, as he has said he will, Vermonters would lose at least $100 million a year in subsidies, Shumlin said.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Backlash to Trump’s Election Spurs Volunteerism, Giving

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 5:19 PM

Volunteers crowd in for orientation at VRRP. - LAURIE STAVRAND
  • Laurie Stavrand
  • Volunteers crowd in for orientation at VRRP.
Local organizations that support civil rights, refugees and access to abortion
say that since Donald Trump was elected president, they’ve received an outpouring of support.

The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program holds volunteer orientations twice a month. More than 100 people showed up at Wednesday night’s event, community partnership coordinator Laurie Stavrand said.

“We’re just getting a lot of positive energy coming our way, which is great because it’s good when people take action,” she said Thursday. “It helps them, and it helps everybody else.”

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shumlin Names His Health Care Director to Green Mountain Care Board

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Chief of health care reform Lawrence Miller and director of health care reform Robin Lunge, center, watch as Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Chief of health care reform Lawrence Miller and director of health care reform Robin Lunge, center, watch as Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks.
Two months before he leaves office, Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed his longtime health care reform director to a six-year term on the state panel that regulates Vermont’s health industry.

Robin Lunge will join the five-member Green Mountain Care Board on November 28, Shumlin’s office announced Wednesday.

She will replace Dr. Allen Ramsay, whose term on the board expired September 30.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Green Mountain Care Board Approves 'All-Payer' Agreement

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 1:56 PM

Al Gobeille and Peter Shumlin in September - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Al Gobeille and Peter Shumlin in September
Vermont's Green Mountain Care Board voted Wednesday morning to sign an agreement with the federal government designed to transform the state's health care payment system. 

The so-called All-Payer Accountable Care Organization Model would reimburse participating providers for health outcomes, rather than for every procedure they perform. Advocates argue that it would slow rising health care costs and improve patient care.

Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration spent years working with Vermont's medical community and negotiating with the federal government to obtain an all-payer waiver. In September, Shumlin reached a verbal agreement with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell to more forward with it. 

The GMCB, which regulates the state's health care system, held several public meetings in recent weeks to discuss the draft agreement. Wednesday's vote empowers the board's chair, Al Gobeille, to sign off on the plan. The other required signatories are Shumlin and Burwell. 

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Friday, October 21, 2016

At UVM Roundtable, Biden Calls for Renewed Focus on Cancer Research

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 2:21 PM

Vice President Joe Biden speaks Friday morning at the University of Vermont. - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Vice President Joe Biden speaks Friday morning at the University of Vermont.
Updated at 4:27 p.m.

Nine months after President Barack Obama asked him to lead a national effort to expedite cancer research, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Burlington Friday to outline the recommendations of his “Cancer Moonshot” initiative.

During a morning roundtable at the University of Vermont, Biden said that researchers had in recent years reached “a real inflection point” in the fight against the disease. But he argued that the medical community continued to face structural deficiencies that hobble communication and collaboration.

Vice President Joe Biden Friday morning in downtown Burlington - POOL: GLENN RUSSELL/BURLINGTON FREE PRESS
  • Pool: Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press
  • Vice President Joe Biden Friday morning in downtown Burlington
“We are so far behind the curve on some of the simple things that can make a gigantic difference,” the vice president said. “This is a worldwide problem, and we need an organizational structure that will take us to a different place.”

Specifically, Biden said, those fighting cancer struggle to access information about their malady, find clinical trials or even share their medical records with far-flung hospitals. Moreover, he argued, the pharmaceutical industry charges too much for life-saving drugs.

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