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March 17th Update, Health Insurance, Toxins Bill, Paid Family Leave

03/20/2019 6:49 AM | Denis Bourbeau

Act 250 Bill

Jim Bradley, President of HBRA and Kemener Whalen, Blackrock Construction testified before House Natural Resources Committee on the Act 250 bill under consideration. Jim kicked off their presentation highlighting the need to enforce Residential Building Energy Standards before the committee considers expanding more requirements that won’t have proper oversight. The committee was supportive of his testimony, particularly when he detailed the importance of building energy efficient homes and the missed opportunities due to lack of proper enforcement of RBES. Kemener followed with a detailed explanation of how added permitting and requirements increase the cost of housing which is a real problem in Vermont.  


                                                                                         

Paid Family Leave Bill - H.107

House Ways and Means continues to take testimony on H.107 which, if passes as currently written would:

  • ·        Provide family leave of up to 12 weeks per year, up to 100% wage replacement up to a cap of 2x the livable wage (currently $1,067.00).
  • ·        This would be funded by an estimated .93% payroll tax split between the employer and employee.
  • ·        This leave could be used to recover from personal illness, care for a close family member, care for a new child, or for two weeks of bereavement leave.

The employee’s job is protected while they are out unless:

  • ·        The position was going to be terminated prior to the employee’s request,
  • ·        The employee would have been laid off for reasons unrelated to the leave,
  • ·        The employee performed a unique service and hiring a permanent employee to replace the employee was necessary to prevent substantial economic injury to the employer’s operation, or
  • ·        The employee works for an employer with fewer than 10 employees, in which case the employer is required to offer the employee returning from leave the same or comparable job if a position becomes available within a two-year period.

This bill is expected to be up for a vote in the House later next week.

Workforce Development Bill

This proposal will provide for additional funding for apprenticeships and job training has been voted out of House Commerce. This bill will move on to the Senate and there will be opportunities for HBRA members to testify to the need for this training in our industry.


Toxins Bill – S.37

This strict liability and medical monitory bill passed the Senate and is on to House Judiciary on a vote of 22-8. The Governor would need 11 votes to sustain a veto. This bill has serious ramifications and would be the only legislation of its kind in the country.

Companies affected would be those with 10 or more employees and has a Standard Industrial Classification of 20-39. This bill, should it pass would potentially affect suppliers who would no longer want to do business in Vermont. We plan to schedule testimony in the House about the impacts of this bill should it pass.

Contract Registry Bill

This passed out of Senate Economic Development Committee in a larger bill. The Registry language can be found beginning on Page 10, Line 9 in the link provided.

This will be up for a vote of the entire Senate next week. We were able to get the additions in that Jim Bradley had requested.

Health Insurance Market Stabilization Bill – H.524

            As it affects you Association Healthcare Plans

The House Health Care Committee passed H.524, a bill that imposes measures to stabilize the health insurance market. This bill proposes to implement Vermont’s individual mandate to maintain health insurance coverage.  It would also codify in State law certain health insurance consumer protections included in the ACA such as, a ban on preexisting condition exclusions and a requirement to provide coverage for dependents up to 26 years of age.  The bill would require looking through the structure of an association to provide health insurance plans based on the size of each underlying employer.  It would prohibit licensed brokers from accepting payment for enrolling Vermont residents in certain health expense-sharing arrangements and would require the Green Mountain Care Board to quantify the impact of the Medicaid and Medicare cost shifts and uncompensated care on health insurance premiums.  The bill would also direct the Agency of Human Services to develop strategies for increasing the affordability of health insurance and to evaluate options for the future of Vermont’s health insurance markets.

The so-called “look through doctrine” disallows small businesses and individuals to be treated as larger groups in the insurance marketplace thus eliminating an important regulatory and financial benefit of association health plans (AHP). Business groups that participate in association plans have protested the look-through proposal.

Advocates for AHPs said that they allow small businesses greater choice in plan

design and price. The potential ramifications of eliminating existing AHPs is “rate

shock” for these businesses and their employees as premiums would increase

significantly for the 2020 enrollment year.

The bill is now in Ways and Means where that committee is focused on the individual mandate penalty structure and it may propose changes.

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