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30 posts categorized "Health Care"

March 08, 2012

'Right to Die' Bill to Get a Hearing in Montpelier Next Week

DSC01964Since it was introduced last year, a bill that would give terminally-ill Vermonters the right to voluntarily end their own lives has gone nowhere. "An Act Relating to Patient Choice and Control at End of Life" — bill number S. 103 — was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and, despite vigorous lobbying from supporters, had not gotten a hearing.

Next week, it finally will.

State Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) told Seven Days today the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will review the bill on Tuesday, March 13 and take three hours of testimony on Wednesday, March 14, to hear from the main groups for and against the legislation.

Sears (pictured) cautioned that there's no guarantee it will be voted on — either by the committee or by the full Senate. Even if it is, Sears doesn't believe the legislation has the votes to pass in either venue.

So why take it up?

"Part of the reason for doing this hearing is I'm meeting right now with a group of constituents at an independent living facility tomorrow here in Bennington,"  Sears said.  "And they've asked me to better understand their side and I want to understand the other side as well. It's highly controversial and it's highly emotional and I'm sure there will be emotional testimony on both sides."

Continue reading "'Right to Die' Bill to Get a Hearing in Montpelier Next Week" »

February 24, 2012

In Health Care Vote, Wright Sides With Dems

As we reported earlier this week, Kurt Wright has styled his campaign for mayor of Burlington as a post-partisan affair, despite a reliably Republican record representing the New North End in Montpelier.

Last night, Wright’s post-partisan cred was put to the test as the Vermont House voted almost entirely along party lines in a preliminary vote to establish a state-run health insurance exchange.

Mayor graphicI say ‘almost entirely’ because there was one Republican who bucked his party and voted with the Democrats: Kurt Wright.

“I think, like most people do think, the system that we have does have to be reformed. We do have a broken system that’s very expensive for employers and employees,” Wright explained Friday. “I think, overall, the bill helps a lot of middle and lower income people get insurance and, if they have insurance, get better insurance.”

Wright’s Republican colleagues disagreed. They argued that the Democrat-designed exchange — an online marketplace for health insurance plans — would limit consumers’ and small business’ ability to choose affordable plans outside of the system.

To be fair, Wright voted against a key element of the plan before he voted for it.

An amendment offered by Rep. Mark Higley (R-Lowell) would have allowed businesses to opt out of the exchange. Wright voted in favor of the Republican amendment, which failed by a vote of 57 to 80.

“To me what [the Higley amendment] did was it spoke to concerns a lot of small business people had. I think it was worth giving them some level of comfort with this,” Wright said. “I thought that should start out being an optional choice. Even without that amendment passing, I thought [the overall bill] was a net plus.”

"Will Wright's vote help or hurt his chances in March? Why?"Post your answer below

Wright missed a vote on an earlier amendment offered by Rep. Oliver Olsen (R-Jamaica) that would have allowed businesses to opt out of the exchange if premiums became too expensive. Wright missed the vote because he was participating in a mayoral forum on the arts at the Flynn Space in Burlington and didn't expect votes at that time. He said he would have to review the language of the amendment before taking a position on it. The amendment failed by a vote of 45-88.

Wright also bucked his party yesterday by voting against an amendment that would move forward the date by which Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration would have to outline how it would finance the exchange and a proposed single-payer health care system. That amendment, which failed by a vote of 49 to 86, has become a political football in Shumlin’s re-election fight, with Republicans arguing the decision should be made before the November election.

Wright said, “Republicans wanted more information and they wanted it before the election. My understanding is there will not be accurate information before the election. It’s not going to be timely. It’s just a matter of that. Would I like it to be? Sure.”

Last year Wright voted against the creation of a panel charged with designing a single-payer health care system in Vermont.

Vermont Democratic Party chairman Jake Perkinson sees political motives in yesterday’s votes.

“The timing is interesting,” Perkinson said. “I'm glad Kurt voted for this much-needed health care legislation, but it is 11 days before the election and everyone in Burlington is watching. I don't think he really could have voted another way and explained it to the voters."

Wright acknowledges the political scrutiny he faces this close to the election.

“The interesting thing here is if I voted against this, people would be saying it was a Republican vote. If I voted the other way, they say he’s voting for political expediency,” he said. “So you can’t win.”

February 16, 2012

House Bill Looks to Snuff Out Mail-Order Sales of Electronic Cigarettes in Vermont

F-butts2-1Ex-smokers and others trying to quit or reduce their cancer-stick consumption are burning mad over a new bill in the Vermont Legislature. H.747, introduced by Rep. Bill Frank (D-Underhill), would classify electronic cigarettes as "tobacco substitutes" and ban their mail-order sale to and from Vermont.

Electronic cigarettes, or "e-cigarettes," are battery-powered devices that deliver a vaporized hit of nicotine to the user, without the smoke, odor or deadly chemicals found in burning tobacco cigarettes. Unlike the panoply of other over-the-counter tobacco-replacement products, e-cigs are often described by regular smokers as the closest thing yet to the real deal in terms of taste and sensation. 

Seven Days first wrote about the controversy surrounding e-cigarettes in a June 2, 2010, story, "Ifs, Ands and Butts: Ex-smokers rave about e-cigarettes, but the FDA and antismoking groups want them snuffed out." 

For nonsmokers, one obvious benefit of e-cigarettes is that they don't stink up your hair, clothing or house with secondhand smoke, nor do they drive your smoker pals outside to litter your front stoop with butts every 20 minutes while they satisfy their fix. But for lifelong smokers such as Josh Slocum of Winooski, the best part about e-cigarettes is that they literally saved his life.

Continue reading "House Bill Looks to Snuff Out Mail-Order Sales of Electronic Cigarettes in Vermont" »

January 19, 2012

VT Bill Aims to Add PTSD to List of Conditions Eligible for Medical Marijuana

F-growinglegit-weed-1For many marijuana users, forgetfulness and drowsiness are simply the drug's unintended side effects. But for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially combat veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ability to smoke pot, relax and briefly escape the horrors of the past is just the right prescription for what ails them.

At least, that's the thinking of House Rep. Jim Masland (D-Thetford), who introduced legislation this week to allow people who suffer from PTSD to use medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. The bill, H.568, would add PTSD to the current list of "debilitating medical conditions"  that qualify patients for participation in Vermont's medical marijuana registry.

In 2004, the Vermont legislature created the medical marijuana registry for patients who suffer from end-stage cancer, HIV/AIDS or multiple sclerosis. In 2007, the law was expanded to include any medical condition that results in persistent or severe pain, chronic wasting, nausea or seizures. Currently, 411 Vermonters are on the registry.

Masland says he introduced H.568, in part, at the request of a constituent, a combat veteran, who claims that using cannabis to relieve his symptoms is "pretty nearly the only thing that helps."

"I work with veterans from time to time so I understand their plight," Masland adds. "if there's something that we can do to help them, then I think that would be a fine thing."

Continue reading "VT Bill Aims to Add PTSD to List of Conditions Eligible for Medical Marijuana" »

January 11, 2012

Department of Public Safety Releases Results of First-Ever Survey of Vermont Medical Marijuana Patients

F-growinglegit-weedThere's tasty green bud in them thar hills, and the Green Mountains' medical marijuana patients are smoking it by the ounce each month. Moreover, they're using strains as diverse and colorfully named as a Benjamin Moore palette: White Widow, Strawberry Ice, Pink Fusion, Tangerine Dream, Grape Ape, Pineapple Express, Dutch Passion and Barney's Farm Red Cherry Berry are just a few of the more than 90 strains identified in the first-ever survey of Vermont's registered medical marijuana users.

The report was released January 9 by the Vermont Department of Safety, which sent surveys to Vermont's 411 registered medical marijuana patients, of which 209 (51 percent) responded. (To read the report itself, click here.) The survey was mandated by a 2011 law that will eventually create state-run medical marijuana dispensaries in Vermont. It provides the first glimpse of an otherwise invisible population of chronically ill patients whose identities, medical conditions and locations are protected by strict confidentiality laws.

Little time, creativity or spell-checking went into naming this legislatively mandated document, which is officially titled the "Report From the Department of Public Safety: In complaince [sic] with S.17 of the 2011 Vermont General Assembly, Section 2A and Section 3 of the act for the marijuana for medical symptom use by persons with severe illess." Nevertheless, this legislative page-turner may be the most interesting document ever to emerge from the  halls of DPS, notwithstanding the severe nature of the ailments its respondents endure.

Continue reading "Department of Public Safety Releases Results of First-Ever Survey of Vermont Medical Marijuana Patients" »

January 10, 2012

Fletcher Allen's Family Medical Practices Adopt New Painkiller-Dispensing Procedure

PillsGot pain? If so, you can't just sit on the couch anymore and phone in your re-up for an extra 50 percocets or oxycontins, as if your doctor's office were a pizza-delivery service. In an effort to crack down on Vermont's rising tide of prescription drug abuse, Vermont Fletcher Allen's Family Medicine Health Care Service, which employs more than 40 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and mental-health professionals at six locations, has instituted a new procedure for dispensing narcotic painkillers including codeine, hydrocodone, vicodin, oxycodone, percocet, morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl and dilaudid.

Continue reading "Fletcher Allen's Family Medical Practices Adopt New Painkiller-Dispensing Procedure" »

January 02, 2012

Brock to Shumlin: Tell Us How You're Paying for Health Care — Before Election Day

Randy BrockHappy New Year! It's 2012 — an election year. The 2012 legislative sweepstakes begin tomorrow when lawmakers descend on Montpelier for the opening of the session, but several bills are already waiting in the queue.

As promised, Republican candidate for governor and state Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) has drafted legislation to force the Shumlin administration's hand on what could become a key issue in the 2012 campaign: how to pay for health care reform.

Brock (pictured) is sponsoring legislation, S.163, that would move up the due date for Gov. Peter Shumlin's recommendations for financing Green Mountain Care, the name for Vermont's universal health care experiment, from January 15, 2013 to September 15 of this year.

Just in time for campaign season.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, a group opposed to single-payer health care, has been circulating an online petition called "How Much Will It Cost? Who Will Pay?" demanding a September 2012 release of the financing plan.

Brock's legislation asserts that, "The public has a right to hear and understand the proposed financing plans in advance of the November 2012 election, in which the future direction of Vermont's health care planning is likely to be a major issue for debate."

In today's Burlington Free Press, Shumlin tells reporter Terri Hallenbeck the delay is not at all political. It's logistical.

Continue reading "Brock to Shumlin: Tell Us How You're Paying for Health Care — Before Election Day" »

December 19, 2011

Fletcher Allen and Fresenius Pull Plug on Sale of Dialysis Clinics

Fletcher_AllenA for-profit company that wanted to buy Fletcher Allen Health Care's five outpatient dialysis clinics announced today it's pulling the plug on the $28-million sale.

FAHC announced last year it wanted to sell off the clinics because they were losing about $1.8 million annually. Fresenius Medical Care proposed to buy them and run them through its subsidiary, Bio-Medical Care Holdings, based in New Hampshire.

State regulators panned the proposed sale earlier this month.

Continue reading "Fletcher Allen and Fresenius Pull Plug on Sale of Dialysis Clinics" »

December 16, 2011

State Health Department Bans "Bath Salts" and Five Synthetic Cannabinoids

Salvia_divinorum_-_Herba_de_Maria"Tranquility", "Cloud 9", "Vanilla Sky" and similarly named products sold online as "bath salts" may sound as calm and relaxing as a hot bubble bath, but these ain't your grandma's epsom salts. Bath salts are the street name for the designer drug, Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPK), a powerful new stimulant to hit the underground drug scene in the last few years. MDPK, along with the much older hallucinogen, Salvia divinorum, or "Seer's Sage" (right), have just joined the ranks of illegal substances in Vermont, with possession of a single dose of these drugs constituting a felony.

The Vermont Department of Health announced this morning that it has banned the use, sale, possession or manufacture of bath salts and other designer drugs, which are sold in head shops and over the Internet to skirt state drug laws. As of December 16, bath salts and five synthetic cannabinoids — the active ingredients in marijuana — are now illegal in the Green Mountain State.

Continue reading "State Health Department Bans "Bath Salts" and Five Synthetic Cannabinoids" »

December 06, 2011

Vermont is the Healthiest State in the Nation... Again

Health-rankingsThe United Health Foundation has just released the 2011 edition of America's Health Rankings, and once again, Vermont comes out on top as the healthiest state in the country.

If you feel like you've heard this before, it might be because Vermont has claimed a sort of health-ranking dominance in the past few years. Our state has come out on top in four out of the past five years, and hasn't finished lower than fourth since 2002. Vermont hasn't always been on top of the heap, languishing between positions 10 and 20 in the 1990s before shooting up to the top in the aughts.

Why is Vermont so healthy? The United Health Foundation credits Vermont's high rates of both early prenatal care and graduation from high school, coupled with few infectious diseases and violent crimes. Vermont's love of local, healthy food helps (#1 in the Diet, Fruit & Vegetables ranking), as do the seemingly bottomless opportunities for active outdoor recreation (#2 in the Physical Activity ranking). Oh, and there are no Chick-fil-A restaurants in Vermont. Just sayin'.

Continue reading "Vermont is the Healthiest State in the Nation... Again" »

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