VT Digger | March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017

OneCare drops opposition to open meetings bill

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would require the board of directors at Vermont’s largest health care organization to hold open meetings.

The committee approved S.4 after OneCare Vermont, which opposed a previous version, worked out a compromise with Vermont Legal Aid’s Office of the Health Care Advocate and the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.

The bill would require OneCare’s board of directors to hold open meetings starting Jan. 1. The board would be able to go into executive session for any of seven reasons, including discussing personnel issues, negotiating contracts and talking about confidential patient information.

A previous version of the bill had named fewer reasons for executive session. But the new version also has more requirements, saying the board of directors must publicly warn meetings and publish either meeting minutes or recordings. [...]

Mike Fisher, the chief health care advocate at Vermont Legal Aid, said OneCare “came around” on the open meetings bill. Fisher had advocated for the provisions regarding meeting warnings and the publication of minutes.

“We kept asking, ‘What is it that you object to? Is it difficult for you to provide minutes of meetings or notice of meetings or notice of agendas? What is it that’s hard for you to do?’” he said. “And when we really got down to the business of looking at those details, they didn’t have an objection.” [...]