People's Team Reports from the State House: January 28, 2013

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Update from People's Team Member Brittany Nevins
– On January 18, my first day as a member of the People’s Team, I sat in on the House Health Committee meeting during this most crucial time in our transition to a universal health care system in Vermont! What an exciting start to my Friday morning and to a conclusion of the first full week of the legislative session this year! I sat in on the House Health Committee meeting where the committee was joined by the chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, Anya Rader Wallack, as well as the executive director of the board, Georgia Maheras. The meeting also had several people in the background listening in or taking notes. Anja presented to the committee the annual report of the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) which in essence was a description of where Green Mountain Care (GMC) currently stands in achieving the goals and obligations set in place by the implementation of Act 48 in 2012, which, according to the report, are to;

  • Improve Vermonters experience of care (including quality and satisfaction);
  • Improve the health of Vermonters; and
  • Reduce Vermont’s per capita costs of health care. 

The report not only reflected the breadth and depth of the activities GMC has been doing over the past year 2012, but also illustrated that there is much work to be done and, according to Anya, a unified health care budget is “a work in progress.” Specifically, Anya described a continuous struggle involved in the collection and analysis of data. She mentioned, however, that a new contractor has just been hired and that she is hopeful to have a better sense of spending going forward. Also, the board is paying particular attention to transparency and public engagement, which is spelled out in the report. Anya spelled out informative activities and public hearings and meetings that took place during 2012, and also generally outlined the future outreach and engagement plan, where the board hopes to travel around the state to better inform people in other parts of the state, as well as potentially learn more about health experiences in those areas. Sarah Louise Copeland Hanzas commented, “I am very impressed with the quality and way of work (of the GMCB). Thank you for going to constituents. It is invaluable to have it come straight from you when trying to relay this information.” 

George Till commented, “There is impressive work here and ambitious plans.” Many committee members praised Green Mountain Care for its hard work and progress, though seemed to take a distant stance on future steps, allotting trust in the expertise of the GMCB. Paul Poirier, the ranking member of the House Health Committee, seemed to press the board the most. In reference to the numerous meetings regarding health care that have been held recently, Paul stated, “Some of us feel that you are quasi-decision makers. How does the public even know that these conversations are taking place? Everyone should know.” Though Anya agreed that while making regulatory decisions should be public and transparent, the regulating community needs to be kept in an “arm's length relationship.” She stated that “Regulation and innovation are sometimes conflicting. There needs to be a cooperative atmosphere.”

Though two committee members, Kristy Spengler and Mary Morrissey, were not physically present, the atmosphere of the meeting was informative, innovative, and in large part held true to the aspirations of Act 48, though not in its entirety in regards to the board's and legislators' approaches to financing, which were centered around lowering costs. Michael Fisher, the chair of the House Health Committee, expressed the “interesting tension” he faces between “needing to reduce healthcare spending and getting people at the right place at the right time.” Though much of the meeting started from a perspective of reducing cost, the meeting concluded with a more hopeful, health-based approach. Anya said, “I may be an idealist, but I believe that the right care at the right time costs less.” A committee member chimed in response, “But to do that we need to spend more.” Anya replied, “We don’t need to necessarily spend more. We may need to simply shift resources and invest more in the right services and decrease in others.” Michael Fisher suggested that the committee attend a Green Mountain Care Board meeting in the near future.

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The legislative report gives a weekly update on the Put People First People's Agenda.  For more background on the agenda, click HERE.

Healthcare Is a Human Right: The Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign testified at the House Committee on Healthcare last week.

People's Budget: Put People First held the People’s Address last week before Governor Shumlin’s Budget Address. The press conference highlighted concrete steps the Administration and Legislature should take to stay the course toward a People's Budget and healthcare as a human right in Vermont.   

Work with Dignity & the Right to Organize: S.52, the bill that would allow early educators to organize a union, was introduced in the Senate. AFT expects the bill will be taken up by the Senate Economic Development Committee in the coming weeks. Early Educators from around the state are excited about winning the opportunity to organize a union to improve the lives of providers and the families they serve.

Human Right to Movement & Access to Transporation: Migrant Justice's grassroots organizing led to a report on 1/15/13 recommending legislation to create access to driver's licenses regardless of immigration status. Then, Senator Baruth introduced our legislation on 1/16 (with Senators Ashe, Ayer, Cummings, Fox, Lyons, McCormack, Pollina, White and Zuckerman). The bill was referred to the Senate Transportation committee on 1/18. Migrant Justice and the VWC continue to collaborate to ensure undocumented workers have access to Vermont's universal health care. Join Migrant Justice on 2/5 from 9:30am-1:30pm at the State House for a grassroots training and education of lawmakers about why its urgent we act on driver's licenses this year.

Human Rights & Full Inclusion of People with Disabilities: Green Mountain Self Advocates has been working on the Budget Adjustment Act, including participating in hearings of the House Appropriations and House Human Services Committees. Governor Shumlin recognized that the Administration did not adequately determine the need for developmental services and added $3 million to the budget to meet those needs this year. 

Healthy Environment & Livable Planet: Members of the HELP Committee participated in the People's Team to monitor weatherization program recommendations. Last week, a Thermal Efficiency Task Force issued a lengthy report to the VT General Assembly to address program improvements, financing, workforce development, and environmental benefits. 

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                                FACES OF THE PEOPLE'S TEAM


“I’m on the People’s Team because I want to know what decisions are being made for our communities and be able to relay that information back to the community in a way that is transparent and understandable.” – Brittany Nevins

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Interested in joining the People's Team? The People's Team is our answer to corporate lobbyists in our State House. It's our way of holding government accountable by being in the room while the business of government is happening. Call the Vermont Workers' Center at 861-4892 to learn how to get involved.