From the CEO
Open enrollment for Vermont

Open Enrollment for Vermont’s health insurance market began on November 1 and runs through December 15. This means that now is the time for individuals and families to obtain or change health insurance plans. 

Next year, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will turn 10 years old. The law has had its fits and starts, but overall has dramatically expanded coverage and access throughout the U.S. I was privilged to work on passing the ACA, which has become a key piece of our coverage and delivery systems. 

Thanks in part to the availability of qualified health plans (QHPs) on Vermont Health Connect—our state’s health insurance marketplace—Vermont’s uninsured rate is just 3.2 percent. While this is something our state should be proud of, it is not true elsewhere: the overall uninsured rate in the U.S. continues to grow. At 13.7 percent, it is creeping up toward the 18 percent mark, where it stood before passage of the ACA. 

The medical community can do A LOT to encourage Vermonters to stay or become insured. We know that health care professionals are trusted advisors to the people for whom they care.

Here are a few facts about signing up to use in talking to patients and others about open enrollment:

  • Many people qualify for help in paying premiums for QHPs. In fact, some pay no premium at all. To see if they qualify and to receive premium assistance, Vermonters should use Vermont Health Connect’s decision tools.
  • Assistors throughout the state can help Vermonters sign up for health plans. They are available at a variety of locations like community health centers—some may work in your organization.
  • Individuals must sign up for coverage during the Open Enrollment period of November 1 to December 15. At other times of year, they may still be able to enroll in plans if they lose health coverage or have other qualifying events, but it they delay for more than 60 days applying and selecting their plans, they might have to wait until Open Enrollment to get health insurance.
  • Individuals who want to stay on the QHPs they are currently on don’t need to do anything. As long as they keep paying their premiums, they will remain insured.

Thank you for helping to share this important information. The ACA is working—in many ways better than before—but people still need to know how to access its benefits.

Jeff Tieman
President and CEO, VAHHS
From Our Annual Meeting
Mark Redmond talks about storytelling and his father at special Moth-Inspired presentation

At our Annual Meeting, we held a special storytelling event based on the award-winning Moth. The program included stories told by UVM Medical Center cardiologist Friederike Keating, director of the Child Welfare Partnership at UVM and author Sarah Ward, deputy commissioner of health and part-time comic Tracy Dolan, and stand-up comic/cancer survivor Josie Leavitt. The only guideline was that the story be related to health care.

The emcee of the event was Mark Redmond, who, in addition to his job as director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, has participated in numerous Moth events in Vermont and across the country, including his one-man off-Broadway show, "So Shines a Good Deed," which was performed in October.

Mark shared with us the story of his involvement with the Moth, segueing into a heartwarming story about his father, whose life-saving surgery fell on the same night as a Moth competition.

Watch Mark's full story here .
In the News
Improved cardiac rehab access at RRMC
Vermont Business Magazine

Rutland Regional Medical Center Cardiac Rehab Program recently announced the expansion of available sessions in their cardiac rehab gym for Phase II patients. Phase II refers to patients who are in the acute phase of their recovery after a cardiac event. According to the American Heart Association, patients with certain conditions and procedures will benefit from a cardiac rehab program. These include a heart attack, heart failure, angina, coronary artery disease (CAD), coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery,percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), and valve replacement.

“Phase II is a critical part of the patient’s recovery,” said Dr. Michael Robertello, Cardiologist, at the Rutland Heart Center. “It has been proven that cardiac rehab reduces recurring heart events and mortality rates. This phase includes medically supervised exercise sessions, counseling, and education.”

The Rutland Heart Center has experienced an increase in the number of patients requiring this critical service in our community. This improved access will be beneficial to the patients in need of service.

UVM Health Network to make 'Epic' switch

This past Saturday, the University of Vermont Health Network switched to a new electronic health records system called in an effort to streamline patient care.

The "Epic" system will allow the network to use one system for the hospitals, home health agencies, and medical group. Currently they have dozens of separate systems.

Galen Ettlin spoke with network president an CEO Dr. John Brumsted about the switch to the new system.

$8 million effort in St. Albans to attack local nursing shortage
My Champlain Valley

Northwestern Medical Center, CCV and Vermont Tech are teaming up to create more capacity in nursing programs for the northwest part of the state.

They will do so at a new building that is now under construction.

Brattleboro organizations partner on new opioid-treatment program
Keene Sentinel

In an attempt to expedite services for patients with substance-use disorders, local recovery agencies have teamed on a new, collaborative program.

The state-funded Rapid Access to MAT program, involving Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, the Brattleboro Retreat and Turning Point of Windham County, aims to give those wanting to get into recovery the tools needed to start — in a single visit.

MAT stands for medication-assisted treatment, and it is often used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies. Of the three federally approved medications for opioid withdrawal — naltrexone, buprenorphine and methadone — the latter two are opioids themselves, and can have addictive properties.

UVM Health Network to offer DNA testing as part of primary care
VT Digger

For some Vermonters, their annual doctor’s check-up could become a whole lot more comprehensive than a few pokes and prods with a stethoscope. Some patients at the University of Vermont Health Network are now eligible for DNA tests as part of their annual exam.

The tests are part of a pilot project that will allow primary care doctors and geneticists to identify and treat preventable diseases earlier, said Dr. Debra Leonard, who’s spearheading the project. Using blood drawn as part of the appointment, the tests will analyze 147 genes for mutations that are linked to certain diseases, such as cancer or heart disease. The first patient agreed to a test on Nov. 1.

Over the course of the next year, UVM Health Network doctors plan to test 1,000 patients. The tests are voluntary and free, though patients must be at least 18 years old and receive care from one of the six primary care doctors who will be participating in the project. They also must be a member of OneCare Vermont, the company that’s implementing the state’s all-payer health care system.

Possible chemical culprit found in vaping illness outbreak
My Champlain Valley

U.S. health officials are reporting a breakthrough in their investigation into the cause of an outbreak of vaping illnesses.

A government lab found the same chemical compound in lung fluid from 29 patients. The compound — vitamin E acetate — was previously found in vaping fluid used by many of those who got sick.

But officials said Friday that this is more direct evidence that the chemical may be to blame.

Vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, but inhaling oily droplets can be harmful. It has recently been used as a thickener in vaping fluid, particularly in black market vape cartridges.

More than 2,000 Americans who use electronic cigarettes have gotten sick this year, and at least 40 have died.

Five projects from across Vermont selected in the second round of the Innovation Fund
Vermont Business Magazine

In 2019, OneCare Vermont (OneCare) Accountable Care Organization (ACO) has awarded $1,065,181 in competitive grant funding, over two funding cycles, to providers in the ACO Network and their partners, with the goal of improving the quality, cost, and experience of healthcare for Vermonters.

In May 2019, OneCare released the request for proposals (RFP) for the second round of funding for the Innovation Fund. In July 2019, 36 proposals were submitted from across ten of Vermont’s 14 health service areas. The selections were made by OneCare’s Board of Managers’ Population Health Strategy Committee. This committee includes representatives from throughout the state and the full spectrum of care providers. In the first round of funding, three proposals were selected, and in the second round of funding five proposals have been awarded.

“2019 was the inaugural year for the Innovation Fund, and we have been impressed by the quality and breadth of proposals we have received from across the state,” said Sara Barry, OneCare Chief Operating Officer. “The selected projects represent the best ideas from providers for how to improve health for community members by working together in new and creative ways to solve old problems. We look forward to learning from their progress as they get underway and recognizing the outcomes they achieve.”

MVP Health Care announces holistic wellness options for families, individuals, and employers in Vermont
Vermont Business Magazine

MVP Health Care today announced that beginning on January 1, 2020, families, individuals, and employers in Vermont will have access to new and innovative benefits that can improve their overall health and well-being. At the start of the new year, MVP’s members will have access to a no-cost Health Savings Account, on-demand telemedicine visits, low-cost prescription drugs, a national network of providers, and can earn up to a $600 through its WellBeing Rewards Program.

“For 2020, MVP is investing in unprecedented options that complement our member’s lifestyle and creates an experience that feels personal," said Christopher Del Vecchio, MVP Health Care’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “At MVP Health Care, we are committed to providing comprehensive, high-quality, and cost-effective health insurance coverage that works to improve our member’s overall health and wellness.”

Beginning in January 2020, MVP will waive administrative fees for members wanting to enroll in or use a Health Savings Account (HSA) with a qualified high-deductible health plan. An HSA is a personal, tax-free checking account that can be used to help offset health care costs. An HSA can pay for qualified, out-of-pocket, health-related expenses, including an annual deductible that works to financially support consumers during times of need.

Paid internships offered by SVMC, college
Deerfield Valley News

Bennington College and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center will offer six students fully-paid, health-related internship opportunities as part of the inaugural Population Health Fellowship. Population health transforms the health care model in thinking about health care from seeing patients only when they are sick, to partnering with people to address their social, environmental, and economic issues before they become sick.

This fellowship brings together the college and SVMC, two anchor institutions in the region, to the benefit of students, the hospital, and the community.

During the field work term, the fellows will work closely in their specific focus areas, including information technology, finance and communications, transitional care, Blueprint for Health (Opioid Response and Social Determinants of Health), RiseVT (Community Health), and nutrition and food security, under the mentorship of a member of SVMC’s Population Health team.

For SVMC, this fellowship would allow each member of the Population Health team to benefit from the support of a dedicated intern, while providing opportunities to meet as a cohort in order to discuss new ideas and brainstorm departmental initiatives.
Vt. Health Officials Encourage Flu Shots, Though High-Dose Version May Be Harder To Get
Vermont Business Magazine

It's flu season, and health officials encourage nearly everyone six months and older to get a flu shot.

Christine Finley, the immunization program manager with the Vermont Department of Health, said the good news is there is no shortage of regular vaccines this year — however a high-dose version, for those over age 65, has been a bit harder to get.

"There's two different vaccines that are only for those 65 years and older," said Finley.

One of those vaccines is Fluzone High-Dose, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes "contains four times the antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) of standard-dose inactivated influenza vaccines."

Finley said manufacturing of Fluzone High-Dose was set back several weeks, which caused delays in delivery to some providers.

People in the News
Mark Your Calendar!
Mondays, October 14-November 18, 8 a.m.
The Gables, Mendon

Noontime Knowledge Session: Hepatitis C Infection
Tuesday, December 3, 12 p.m.