From the President and CEO
Our Hospitals' Commitment to Cost Control, Quality and Access
There has been a lot swirling lately around health care costs and hospital budgets. It’s that time of year, when the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) reviews the annual budgets and subsequent rate requests from our non-profit system of hospitals. As you may recall, budgets were filed several weeks ago and this week, the first round of hearings took place. It is a process unlike any other in the country.

The fact that health care costs are simply too high for too many Vermonters is undeniable. We are fortunate to have leaders at every single one of our hospitals who not only understand this reality, but are committed to doing the hard work to reduce costs wherever they are within our control, but never ever at the expense of quality and access. Examples of this commitment can be found in how our hospitals continue to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. As the pandemic roared into Vermont, our hospital system geared up, spending millions on facilities changes, testing supplies and protective equipment. At the same time, elective procedures were suspended, causing hospital revenues to plummet by more than $220 million. In response, leaders leapt into action and quickly reduced expenses by nearly $50 million. With financial support from federal partners of about $130 million, a gap remains.
In the News
Regulators reduce health insurers’ premium requests

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont members should expect an average 4.2% increase in their health insurance premiums in 2021; Vermonters who get insurance from MVP Healthcare will see about a 2.7% increase next year.

The Green Mountain Care Board approved the rate increases in a decision Friday.

The companies had asked for higher increases, citing rising pharmaceutical costs, higher rates requested by hospitals, and ongoing uncertainties due to Covid; Blue Cross requested 6.7%; MVP asked for 6.4%.

Others argued that during a period of economic hardship, Vermonters couldn’t afford to pay higher prices. Health Care Advocate Mike Fisher and Agency of Human Services Secretary MIke Smith both asked the board to deny any increase and keep prices flat. Nearly a thousand Vermonters submitted comments asking the board to consider their need for financial relief.

Any increase, even a reduced one, “means that more people will be priced out of the care they need,” Fisher said Monday. “It’s troubling to me to see this pattern continue. At this moment, with the price of essentials like food increasing, and the tremendous loss of income, it’s very concerning.”
Vermont doctors say treatment options remain limited for severe COVID-19 cases

While only three people are currently hospitalized in Vermont for the coronavirus, state health officials have been making a push to expand drug treatments available to doctors.

The University of Vermont Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, has tried some of these drugs on patients with more severe cases of the coronavirus, but they say most so far have been disappointing.

Some of the drugs that have made headlines as possible treatments for severely-ill COVID-19 patients are drugs designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. The theory was that those drugs that help regulate a patient's immune response could help COVID-19 patients avoid tissue damage caused by their body's overreaction to the virus.

But Dr. Gil Allen, the critical care director at UVMMC, says while the drugs don't seem to be hurting patients, they're also not showing that they help either.
Vermonters lonelier, less stressed about finances during pandemic, study says

During the pandemic, Vermonters report being more lonely, but less stressed about their personal finances, and significantly more trustful of their state and local governments, according to new research on Vermonters’ well-being.

A study by the University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies surveyed over 1,500 Vermonters in June, three months after the beginning of the state’s stay-home order, about issues of well-being, from psychological and physical health to time balance, social connectedness, financial stress and work lives.

“This research comes out of a movement to utilize indicators that go beyond traditional economic indicators like gross domestic products, unemployment rates and poverty levels,” said Michael Moser, who conducted and analyzed the research. “This goes beyond that and looks at other domains of people’s lives.”

AHA, AMA, and ANA Urge You to Wear A Mask
American Hospital Association
American Medical Association
American Nurses Association

Together, the American Hospital Association (AHA), the American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) urge the American public to take three simple steps to help stop the spread of COVID-19: wear a mask, practice physical distancing and wash hands frequently. More resources and information on AHAs wear a mask campaign can be found here.
Hospitals in the News
Mark Your Calendars
Save the Date 9/24/20, 3 to 4:30 p.m.:
VAHHS Annual Meeting 2020 (Virtual)