Read the report here: Paid Sick Time in Oregon, March 2015
Curious about the current state of healthcare in Vermont? You’re not alone.Our Main Street Alliance team has been reaching out to business owners across the state to hear their thoughts on the healthcare system in Vermont. We’ve heard that business owners are engaged and interested in the state of healthcare in Vermont, but find it difficult to keep up with the evolving landscape.
We are happy to invite you to our attend one of our Health Care Policy Forums. Please join us for a presentation and discussion that includes the current state of healthcare, the history and progression of universal healthcare in Vermont, information about the current proposals in the legislature, and what lies ahead.
Please see the full schedule below and contact Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-380-0667 with questions or to RSVP. Prior registration appreciated, but not required.
Windsor County Forum Thursday, 3/19 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Norwich Public Library
Washington County Forum Tuesday, 3/24 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Kellogg Hubbard Library in Montpelier: Haze Room
Chittenden County Forum Tuesday, 4/14 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Gallery at Main Street Landing in Burlington
Franklin County Forum Thursday, 4/16 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm St. Albans Free Library
Lamoille County Forum Tuesday 4/21 from 5:15pm – 7:15pm Morristown Centennial Library
And Stay Tuned - STILL TO BE SCHEDULED:
Addison County Forum
Bennington County Forum
Caledonia County Forum
Rutland County Forum
Windham County Forum
Over 1,500 Oregonians came together on Wednesday, February 11th on the Capitol steps to demonstrate the growing support for Health Care for All Oregon, the single payer/medicare for all movement alive and well (and healthy) in Oregon. Health Care for All Oregon is a coalition of over 100 organizations, including The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, supporting the HCAO mission: "To create a comprehensive, equitable, affordable, publicly funded, high quality, universal health care system serving everyone in Oregon and the United States."
The crowd gathered on the steps of the Oregon Capitol building in Salem. The Rally program included music from Oregon performers such as Norm Sylvester singing The Health Care Blues, the Raging Grannies, Salem’s Dr. Atomic, Anne Weiss, and David Rovics, and "Mad As Hell Doctors.” The Rally also featured inspiring speakers, including elected officials, Senator Michael Dembrow, Representative Williamson & Smith-Warner, as well as many other community members.
Jason Freilinger, Owner Freilinger Electronics
Lee Mercer, HCAO President & MSAO Exec Team Member
Main Street Alliance of Oregon Statewide Leadership Circle member & owner of Freilinger Electronics, Jason Freilinger, spoke about the small business support for HCAO and for the universal health care movement. He echoed the feelings of thousands of small business owners from across Oregon, calling for the State to take action to help Oregon small business owners get out of the health insurance business, and back to focused on running their own businesses—that’s better for everyone.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon and small business owners around the state continue to push for further health care reforms. There are important opportunities this Legislative Session that will move our state closer to understand exactly how we can create a universal health care system. Main Street Alliance of Oregon Executive Team member, and President of HCAO, Lee Mercer closed the rally with inspiring words, echoing the theme of the day, “everybody in, nobody out.”
This ruling came as no surprise to local community pharmacy owners who have been dealing with low Medicaid reimbursements for years and have been losing money by providing services to Medicaid patients.
Carmen Cintron, owner of the South Orange Pharmacy in Orlando said, “Medicaid has been underpaying for prescription drugs for as long as I have been in business. I try to make sure that my Medicaid patients pay the same amount out of pocket for their drugs as privately insured patients, and often that means I take a loss.”
Medication costs are always on the rise, and local pharmacy owners have seen the greatest increases in the cost of generic drugs. Generics used to be a way that low income folks could afford prescription drugs, but now local pharmacies are even losing money on generic medications.
“Medicaid takes 3-6 months to update their reimbursement rates, while prescription costs rise on a weekly basis. A drug that is profitable for me to dispense one week may lose me money the next week,” said Al Sheikh, owner of Good Homes Pharmacy in Ocoee. “I have a patient whose medication costs me $305 a month, but their Medicaid coverage only reimburses $281. Every time they fill that prescription I lose about $25. I’ve tried passing that cost on to the patient, but they just can’t afford it.”
While business owners and community members across Florida are ready for the state to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid it is clear that in addition to adding more folks to the coverage plan the state must address low reimbursements that are causing children, families, and small businesses to suffer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Main Street Alliance of Vermont Disappointed at the Slow Down of Universal Healthcare.
Main Street Alliance of Vermont was disappointed to hear that the Governor will not recommend a financing plan for Green Mountain Care to the legislature this year. We are disappointed about the delay and disappointed that the opportunity for stakeholder involvement wasn’t more ubiquitous sooner. We continue to want to move forward to find a plan for universal healthcare that could work and regret that the opportunity to participate in finding a timely solution to the financing challenge as it was presented on Wednesday has been withheld.
We agree and understand that the economy is struggling and we believe that universal healthcare decoupled from employment is an essential ingredient to the success of Vermont’s economy and to supporting small businesses and their employees. We know that in the long run, a truly universal healthcare system, done right, will save Vermont money.
Our current healthcare system continues to be unsustainable and unaffordable for small businesses and for Vermont. Private insurance companies continue to earn large profits while Vermonters struggle to pay for healthcare. Many of Vermont’s small businesses are still unable to afford the high cost of providing health insurance to their employees, and many therefore don’t have access the care they need. The problems we set out to solve remain.
We are closer than we’ve ever been before thanks to all the work that has been done in Vermont to date. The small business owners with whom we work want the opportunity to work with the legislature and the administration to help find solutions to the challenges that the Governor identified and to keep Vermont moving forward this year in every practical and possible way toward the goal of universal healthcare in our state.
The Main Street Alliance is committed to elevating the voices of small business owners to advance public policies that are good for small businesses, our employees, and the communities we serve.
Founding Board Members: Wayne Nelson, L.N. Consulting in Winooski, Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing in Burlington, Trudy Trombley, The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile and Truly Trudy’s Cosmetics in Stowe, and Eliza Cain, Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex
On Monday December 15th, Main Street Alliance of Vermont held a press conference and reception to announce their 2015 legislative platform and to release a report of survey findings from a statewide small business survey conducted this past summer and fall.
Dozens of Main Street Alliance coalition members and several legislators were present at the event. Speakers included former Governor Madeline Kunin; Trudy Trombley, MSA member and owner of Truly Trudy's Cosmetics in Stowe and The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile; Stephanie Hainley, MSA member and COO of White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors; Representative Jill Krowsinki and Senator Philip Baruth, lead sponsors of this year's Earned Leave bill; Peter Sterling, Director of Vermont Leads, and Andrew Savage, Chief Strategy Office at All Earth Renewables.
Trombley and Hainley reported key findings from the survey, highlighting that out of all businesses surveyed, 49% support establishing a minimum standard of earned leave and just under 60% support moving forward with a universal, publicly financed healthcare system in Vermont.
See the links below for media coverage from the event:
VT Digger (Article) My Champlain Valley (Article & Video) Times Argus (Article) WPTZ (Article & Video)
Vermont has long been a leader in providing quality health care coverage, and now we have an opportunity as a state to demonstrate how to deliver an affordable and comprehensive universal healthcare system. This system could potentially save Vermonters half a billion dollars a year in overall healthcare costs, which is great news for small businesses.
Currently, it’s estimated that Vermonters spend about $2.7 billion annually on health care premiums and out of pocket costs, and although it seems like a big price tag, the $2-$2.2 billion anticipated cost for Green Mountain Care will be an overall decrease. In addition, taking employers out of the health insurance provision system means we'll no longer need to administer health insurance, reducing our overhead. The implementation of universal healthcare presents us with a unique opportunity to benefit the entire state.
In order to achieve these benefits for small businesses and our employees, however, it’s critical that we find the right balance in the financing plan - one that won’t hurt small businesses like ours or hard working Vermonters.
According to the December 5th VT Digger article that reported a leak from the Governor’s Advisory Council, an 8% payroll tax could be a part of the financing package for Green Mountain Care. While 8% sounds like a reasonable starting point for the conversation about payroll tax contributions, we’re eager to learn more about the details. Specifically, how will the payroll tax be phased in for small businesses that aren’t currently offering a healthcare benefit to their employees? And, given that currently the average employee premium contribution covers about 80% of the cost, we would have serious concerns about any plan that shifted that balance too quickly, hurting working Vermonters. Any eventual cost shift needs to allow time for the benefits of universal healthcare and the cost savings we will see from improved health outcomes to flow to everyone.
These will be important details to clarify and to work on with the legislature once the administration’s proposal is released and no matter what the standard payroll tax rate ends up being.
Just as important as the balance of the financing plan is the coverage it provides. As founding members of Main Street Alliance, we support a plan that restores Vermonters to at least the coverage that was available under our Catamount Health Plan and Dr. Dynasaur and that includes dental and vision. We should not roll back the progress that Vermont has already made on this point and we support those who are calling for a higher Actuarial Value -– the better the policy, the better it is for Vermont.
As small business owners in Vermont, we're excited about the opportunity to stay engaged in this process. We are looking forward to the release of the Administration’s full plan later this month and to working with the legislature next year. We know that in the long run and done right, universal healthcare will save everybody money. When everybody saves money, they have more to circulate back into the local economy, and that's good for Vermont Main Street businesses and our employees.
This article was submitted by four of Main Street Alliance of Vermont's founding members: Wayne Nelson, L.N. Consulting in Winooski, Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing in Burlington, Trudy Trombley, The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile and Truly Trudy’s Cosmetics in Stowe, and Eliza Cain, Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex
The Main Street Alliance is committed to elevating the voices of small business owners to advance public policies that are good for small businesses, our employees, and the communities we serve.
What Do Vermonters Think About Green Mountain Care?
Vermont’s unexpected election results have led to a lot of speculation among Vermonters and in the media. Many have asked whether this election should be interpreted as a reflection on Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s proposed universal, publicly financed, single payer health care system. My response to this is: Yes. The election results suggest we should move forward.
It’s no secret that the implementation of Vermont Health Connect, our execution of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) – sometimes called Obamacare, has been problematic and troubling to many people. The election is very likely, at least in part, a reflection of people’s dissatisfaction with the rollout of Vermont Health Connect. But that dissatisfaction does not include Act 48, the legislation that established our intent to enact Green Mountain Care, the first universal, publicly financed healthcare system in the country. On the contrary - the legislature, the administration, and the advocacy community should feel encouraged, if not compelled to redouble efforts to move forward with Act 48 and Green Mountain Care.
Moving forward with Green Mountain Care is our way and the best way to move beyond Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and actually improve healthcare. Specifically, implementing Green Mountain Care: a true universal, publicly financed healthcare system, promises to decouple healthcare from employment, decrease administrative overhead, lower cost to consumers, improve access to healthcare, and improve health outcomes.
Main Street Alliance has spent the past four months traveling around the state and speaking one-on-one with hundreds of small, main street business owners about some of the issues facing Vermont, including healthcare. In these conversations, we’ve learned that there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about Vermont’s efforts to reform healthcare in the context of the existing and federally mandated Affordable Care Act.
There’s been a lot of healthcare reform lately – so much that keeping it all straight is a legitimate challenge. But one thing is clear to us based on hundreds of conversations: proponents of universal, publicly financed healthcare need to effectively communicate with Vermonters about the difference between the ACA and Green Mountain Care. Most importantly, we need to make it clear that Green Mountain Care will move us out of Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and into a system that will be much more akin to providing Catamount or Dr. Dynasaur for all Vermonters, that it will take private insurers out of the equation, decouple healthcare from employment, and be paid for through a progressive tax that will replace premiums. Green Mountain Care is a Vermont healthcare system that will include and cover all Vermonters just because they’re Vermonters.
In our conversations, we’ve found that the majority of small business owners (most of whom are not currently providing healthcare to their employees), are supportive of the idea of a universal, publicly financed healthcare system. Of course, they’re eager to see the financing plan and the benefits package, as we all are, to be able to assess the administration’s specific proposal. But the support for the concept – the support to apply for a waiver to the ACA and to move forward with a universal, VERMONT plan that takes private insurers out of the system - is resounding. As one small business owner from Windham county said: “I’d love to see healthcare come from the state; small businesses can’t afford to offer it.”
Please visit our website to see the list of businesses that have formed a working coalition to support moving forward with universal, publicly financed healthcare in a responsible way. A full report on Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s 2014 Small Business Policy Project will be released in December.
This article was written by Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director at Main Street Alliance of Vermont and resident of Huntington. It was originally published in VT Digger and subsequently in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.
Main Street Alliance of Vermont is happy to announce that we have joined with five other organizations to form the new Green Mountain Care Coalition. Each organization in the coalition independently supports Vermont in moving forward with Act 48, the legislation that established Vermont’s intent to enact Green Mountain Care, the first universal, publicly financed healthcare system in the country. Together, we support a healthcare system that is decoupled from employment, that will lower cost to consumers, improve access to healthcare and improve health outcomes for Vermonters.
Is Vermont delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health care for women?
Families depend on both men and women to make ends meet. Women across Vermont are leading households and supporting families. It’s critical to make sure that all women are getting the health care they need to lead healthy, prosperous lives. As the World Bank says: Gender equality is smart economics.
The 2014 Women’s Health Report Card for Vermont underscores that we have a lot to be proud of — Vermont continues to lead the nation in women’s health. In the report card, Vermont was ranked No. 3 and earned a final grade of A. This report ranked all 50 states on 30 measures of women’s health, including coverage, access to care and health outcomes.
I was pleased to see this glowing grade as more evidence that Vermont is on the right track and is a leader in health care. However, I also took this opportunity to educate myself on Green Mountain Care — the next step in Vermont’s health care leadership. I’ll admit that I knew very little about the universal, publicly funded health care system outlined in Act 48. This is something to which the state of Vermont has already committed, and now I can comfortably say that I support this path forward and urge others to get educated.
So what is Vermont doing right? The positive strides of the Affordable Care Act expanded health coverage to more women through the new health insurance marketplaces and through Medicaid, improved coverage of preventive care, created stronger oversight of insurance rates, and increased quality improvement initiatives.
But can Vermont be doing better? Yes. There is room for improvement to ensure that all women in Vermont have access to the health care they need to lead healthy and prosperous lives — especially women of color. Our great report card cannot erase the truth that women of color in Vermont are still less likely to have health coverage, access to health care, and have poorer health.
Looking at the measures of women’s health by race, 6.1 percent of white women in Vermont report being uninsured. That percentage rises to 8.4 percent for black women and then jumps to 17.3 percent of Latinas. Additionally, 11.7 percent of elderly women earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level are uninsured along with 9 percent of those between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level. These upsetting disparities will be erased if Vermont moves to Green Mountain Care in 2017. All Vermonters will have health insurance, just by virtue of being a Vermonter.
Vermont has a special opportunity to achieve the equality that is missing here and throughout the nation. There are many leaders working to balance the financing of this system; to translate the dollars we are already spending on health care into an equitable, universal system. This is enormously complicated, and the devil will truly be in the details. While not increasing the burden on individual Vermonters and Vermont businesses, we need all of our state leaders to side with women and communities of color to make their health a priority — to give our mothers, sisters and daughters full and fair opportunities that begin with quality, affordable health care.
Please join me in supporting our legislators’ commitment to work with the administration to finance Green Mountain Care. And let’s make an example of our state with a true system that is fairly financed, does not harm economic growth and achieves the equality we all deserve.
Stephanie Hainley is Chief Operating Officer at White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors in Burlington. She a founding board member at Main Street Alliance of Vermont and is past president of Burlington Business & Professional Women. This op-ed was originally published at the Barre Montpelier Times Argus and subsequently in the Burlington Free Press.