News

State Looks To Reduce Number Of Drivers Operating With Suspended Licenses

Transportation officials and advocates for low-income Vermonters are looking for ways to reduce the number of Vermonters who have had their licenses suspended, often for offenses that have nothing to do with highway safety. Chris Curtis, a staff attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, says about two-thirds of all license suspensions stem from failure to pay fines.

Curtis says middle- and upper-income Vermonters aren’t going to let a several hundred dollar fine get in the way of their driving privileges.

“But if you’re living on Reach Up in the state of Vermont, and your total income is only $640 a month, which is the average benefit amount for a family of three, a $200 fine may as well be $2,000. It’s a third of their monthly income,” Curtis says.

Curtis is among the people Minter has assembled for a driver restoration task force, which will push for legislative reforms to solve the problem.

Board Puts UVM Medical Center Tower Project on Slow Track

The Health Care Advocate questioned the hospital’s ability to find efficiencies without affecting patient care and predicted the projected $16 million increased cost to operate the new tower would end up passed on to patients.

The advocate’s office has the right to appeal the decision, but Kaili Kuiper, staff attorney, said late Wednesday, “We aren’t anticipating appealing.” She added, “We are pleased the board is keeping an eye on the possibility the project could increase rates and has imposed conditions.”

Regulators approve UVM Medical Center’s $187 million inpatient facility

The decision concludes a regulatory review that started more than two years ago. There is a 30-day appeal window, but Vermont Legal Aid, which represented consumers in the review, doesn’t plan to appeal the decision, one of its attorneys said Wednesday.

Applying conditions to the project’s approval shows the board is “aware” of its potential to impact health care costs for consumers, and it appears the board will closely monitor any cost overruns, said Legal Aid’s Kaili Kuiper. Hospital officials have said the project won’t increase what people pay for medical care....

Kuiper, the Legal Aid attorney, also said UVMMC’s assumptions about what government health care programs will pay in the future are problematic.

She pointed to a report from Deloitte, a firm hired by the board to review UVMMC’s application, which says the hospital’s financing assumes the same 3 percent rate increase from government programs as it does from private insurers — despite historical increases to Medicare and Medicaid rates that hover between 0 percent and 2 percent.

In Vermont, Frustrations Mount Over Affordable Care Act

“There’s a backlash against all things health care reform because Vermont Health Connect has been such a bad experience,” said Trinka Kerr, the chief health care advocate at Vermont Legal Aid, which gets several hundred calls a month from people who have encountered problems with the exchange, including billing errors and even delayed access to care.
"Sometimes they’ll say, ‘I’ll just go without insurance,’ and we try to convince them that’s not a good plan. They don’t like the way this is working and want to go back to the old way.”

Ankori-Karlinsky: Expelling our kids to prison

According to a 2015 report by Vermont Legal Aid, students with disabilities are nearly three times as likely as others to be suspended. African-American and Native American students are two to three times as likely to be suspended as white students.

Affordable Care Act: Implementation Issues Impacting Individuals and Families was developed and presented by attorneys from Vermont Legal Aid, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, and IRS Office of Chief Counsel, and by the Director of IRS Wage & Investment’s Office of Program Coordination & Integration for the American Bar Association Section of Taxation, Individual and Family Taxation Committee.

House advances rent-to-own, other consumer protections

Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid who had worked on the bill, called it "a big win for Vermont consumers."

Vermont House advances rent-to-own

Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid who had worked on the bill, called it a "big win for Vermont consumers."

Vermont hospital treated mental patients as criminals, public records show

The shortage [of beds available for patients who need inpatient psychiatric treatment] has led to an increase in mental health patients who may remain in emergency departments for long periods, said Jack McCullough, the director of Vermont Legal Aid’s Mental Health Law Project.... 

“Patients are not really receiving any treatment when they’re there,” he said. He added that patients are essentially “just locked up in a tiny room,” sometimes for as long as several weeks.

Shumlin bans criminal background question on state job applications

Chris Curtis, of Vermont Legal Aid, said after the press conference that he hopes lawmakers follow through with legislation that would eliminate the question for job applications in the private sector. Several large retailers, like Target and Walmart, have already removed the box from their applications.

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