Message from the CEO
Last Thursday, I was honored to join a lively panel discussion on the early successes of Vermont’s all-payer model (APM). Governor Scott kicked off the event, saying how important it is to understand our state’s value-based care work and continue collective efforts to bend the cost curve. 

The panel was moderated by Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a Johns Hopkins physician and health reform leader from Maryland who put Vermont into a national context. Citing Maryland’s global budgeting system and other examples, Sharfstein explained why the health care system nationwide is so focused on new ways to pay for and deliver care. The ultimate goal, of course, is to provide the best possible care at the lowest possible cost. 

In that vein, Dr. Sharfstein highlighted a recent study of four states that found only Vermont reduced hospitalizations and achieved significant cost savings as a result of its APM work. He attributed the success in part to alignment of Medicaid, Medicare and commercial payers. 

Legislative Update

Things keep moving at a brisk pace at the State House. In terms of the big broad initiatives, the Senate passed the  minimum wage bill  with a vote of 23-6. The bill, which would raise the minimum wage to $12.55 per hour by 2022, goes to the governor’s desk and a possible veto. Speaking of which, the governor vetoed  the  paid family leave bill  on Friday, citing the payroll tax for a mandatory program. Governor Scott continues to pursue a voluntary paid family leave program.
Now, on to our health care!

In the News
Experts say Vermont health care reform efforts on track

Health care reform experts on Thursday said early results of overhauling Vermont's system are solid but there's still room for improvement.

The governor's budget calls for $5.5 million for the state's new all-payer model to make improvements to what is already viewed by some as one of the most efficient reform efforts in the country. The all-payer model calls for patients to receive more preventative care instead of expensive trips to the emergency room. Experts say OneCare, the organization managing Vermont's program, is efficient because it works well with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.

"It's not just Medicaid off on its own trying to be the 10 percent saving money, but Medicaid working hand-in-hand with other payers to get a care transformation that keeps people healthier," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"We want to know what's going on. This is a lot of money. I happen to believe, I'm cautiously optimistic how this would help that at least changing the trajectory of health care costs in the state. We all need to know what we're doing," said Governor Phil Scott.

RRMC ready for virus if needed
Rutland Herald

Rutland Regional Medical Center is preparing to respond to the possibility of local cases of coronavirus, but so far none have developed in the area, and it’s unlikely to cause a local problem.

Officials at the Rutland hospital sent out a press release Wednesday.

“Cases of (the new coronavirus) infection in people have been detected in the U.S. (among Americans who) had traveled in Wuhan City (in China). While the (Centers for Disease Control) considers this a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from (coronavirus) to the general American public is very low at this time,” the release said.

CDC: New Hampshire patients test negative for coronavirus

Surgeries are back on the New Hampshire health officials say the two patients they were monitoring this week for signs of the coronavirus have tested negative.

The two patients were hospitalized early this week at hospitals in Littleton and Concord after they recently traveled to Wuhan, China, and developed respiratory symptoms.

Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Thursday that the tests sent out to the CDC came back negative and that the two patients have since recovered.

The highly contagious virus has sickened upward of 8,000 people, primarily in China and the death toll has risen to 170. The World Health Organization is meeting Thursday to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency.

NVRH and NEK Prosper announce Healthy Cents Fund
The North Star Monthly

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) and NEK Prosper – Caledonia and Southern Essex’s Accountable Health Community have launched the NEK Prosper Healthy Cents Fund. The Healthy Cents Fund provides multi-year funding for organizations serving people in the NVRH service area of Caledonia and southern Essex counties.

The purpose of the NEK Prosper Healthy Cents Fund is to provide funding for projects that will create healthy and thriving communities and positive social, economic or environmental impact across a wide range of areas, including things like affordable and supportive housing, healthy food production and access, transportation, education and arts and culture.

“These types of prevention or wellness funds are popping up all around the country,” NVRH VP Marketing and Community Health Improvement Laural Ruggles said. “They are seen as an effective way to move healthcare dollars from treating illness to preventing illness, while addressing the issues that make it hard for people to be healthy in the first place, like not having enough healthy food to eat.”

New push to swap out sugary drinks in Vermont workplaces

There's a push to get sugary drinks out of workplaces in Vermont.

Research from RiseVT found half of Vermonters said they had one to five sugar-sweetened drinks a week; 21% said they had six to 10 of them.

On average, Vermonters drank about seven sugary drinks a week.

And as for where people guzzled down, 72% were at home, but 47% of people said they drank sugary drinks at restaurants and 43% downed them at work.

Workplaces are an easy target for change. And as our Cat Viglienzoni found out, health care organizations are taking the lead.

On average, Americans consume three to six times more added sugar than the CDC recommends. A way to change that is by changing what's in the cooler.

People in the News
Mark Your Calendar!
Friday, February 7
Bromley Mountain Ski Resort, Peru

Wednesday, February 12, 8:30 a.m.
Pavillion Auditorium/State House, Montpelier

Now until March 10
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital