Feds say patient care improved at state hospital

first_imgWaterbury, Vt.–The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issuedtheir fourth compliance report for the Vermont State Hospital (VSH), based on anon-site review of the facility conducted in early March, 2008.  The DOJreport shows that VSH is compliant with the key components of the agreement made between the federalgovernment and the State in July 2006.  The report evaluates the progress thehospital is making in 140 areas, with a 5-point scoring system, ranging from Non-Compliantto Sustained Compliance.  “It was evident from this visit that VSH leadership and staffhave made significant progress to ensure VSH has become a safer and more effectivetreatment provider, and the Department will continue working to improve themental health service delivery experience for all patients at VSH,” said DMHCommissioner Michael Hartman. The DOJ report is available for viewing and download on the DMHwebsite: http://healthvermont.gov/mh/programs/hospital/index.aspx(link is external)          ##### “I’m pleased that this report highlights the significantefforts the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and VSH staff has undertaken toimprove the provision of care at the hospital for Vermont’s acutely mentally ill,”noted Agency of Human Services Secretary Cynthia D. LaWare.  “EnsuringVSH provides high quality, compassionate care, and remains a safe and securefacility for Vermont’smost vulnerable, is essential as the State moves forward to secure agreementswith our community partners to develop a new system of care that willeventually replace this aging facility.”  DOJ Releases Fourth VSHCompliance ReportShowsMarked Improvement In Patient Care, Safety Among the most improved areas were the protections ofpatients from harm, the quality improvement of patient care, the environmentalconditions and building safety of the hospital, and mental healthassessments.  Areas where there has been marked improvement, but are stillin need of attention, include specific treatment services and the integrationof services across all hospital services.  The hospital has been working toward regaining both Joint Commission onHealth Care Organizations accreditation, and certification by the federalCenter for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to assure high quality patient carefor Vermont’smost severely mentally ill.  The reviewers, Dr. Jeffrey Geller, MD, MPH and Dr. MohammedEl-Sabaawi, met with management, staff, and patients at the Waterbury campusfor four days and offered in their report that, “staff of VSH at alllevels should be most pleased with the improvements their efforts have yieldedto date”. last_img read more

Entergy files motion in New York requesting action on nuclear spin-off

first_imgThe owner of the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon and four other such plants has met with New York regulators to make a more attractive financial offer in its effort to spin off those reactors into a new company called Enexus. The new proposal, which the company said would reduce the debt of the new company by $1 billion, while increasing capitalization by $350 million, would likely require further federal and Vermont regulatory approval. The other plants are Pilgrim (Plymouth, MA), Indian Point 1&2 (New York), FitzPatrick (New York), and Palisades (Michigan).In a press release issued yesterday, Entergy Corporation (NYSE: ETR) and subsidiaries (Entergy Nuclear FitzPatrick, LLC, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 2, LLC, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 3, LLC, NewCo (Enexus Energy Corporation) and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (collectively,  Entergy )) filed a motion Monday with the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) in connection with the company s proposed spin-off, announced in November 2007, of its non-utility nuclear business to be named Enexus Energy Corporation. The motion requests procedures and a schedule to enable the report of the Presiding Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) to be issued in time for the NYPSC to issue a final order no later than its regularly scheduled meeting in November so that the proposed reorganization can be completed by the end of this year, with closing to take place on a month end. The details of the proposed procedures and schedule, including enhancements to the proposed reorganization, are included in this release.New York ProcessIn January 2008, Entergy filed a petition requesting either a declaratory ruling that the NYPSC need not review its proposed spin-off or, in the alternative, approval of the reorganization and its associated financing. In May 2008, the NYPSC issued an order finding that because the reorganization involved nuclear facilities that play an important role in supporting reliable electric service in New York, there needed to be a limited review of its potential to harm captive New York utility ratepayers. The NYPSC emphasized that the public interest inquiry was tightly bounded , allowed 60 days for discovery, and assigned ALJs to establish further procedures. After a series of filings and rulings by the ALJs, in October 2008 the judges notified all active parties that an adequate record had been established and no further formal proceedings were warranted.In December 2008, based on comments and reply comments presented in the above process suggesting that a settlement might be reached, a Notice of Impending Settlement Negotiation was then filed and settlement discussions began with the trial staff of the NYPSC and the other parties. Settlement discussions, viewed by the company as productive, continued throughout the first half of 2009 until recently terminated. The primary focus of comments filed by the trial staff concerned the relative credit ratings of Entergy and Enexus for long-term unsecured bonds and the possibility thatEnexus lower rating might adversely affect its financial capability to ensure the reliable operation ofthe New York nuclear plants.During the course of the settlement discussions, Entergy endeavored to address and resolve those concerns. Despite the termination of settlement discussions, Entergy has developed further enhancements to the reorganization proposal that it believes resolve any concerns. Accordingly, Entergy is proposing to file an amended petition reflecting these enhancements for the NYPSC s consideration.Entergy believes that with these enhancements and Enexus financial strengths described in the original petition, the reorganization proposal should fully satisfy the concerns raised by the NYPSC about the adequacy of Enexus financial resources to operate the New York facilities as reliably as Entergy. The amended petition will also include Entergy s analysis showing how there will be adequate funding for both radiological and non-radiological decommissioning of the New York plant sites. The following table briefly outlines a few of the most salient aspects of the enhancements that will be described in more detail in the amended petition:Procedures and Schedule Proposed by EntergyEntergy has proposed the following procedures and schedule in order to permit the ALJs toissue a report in time for the NYPSC to issue a final order no later than its regularly scheduledmeeting in November so that the proposed reorganization can be completed by the end of this year: After settlement discussions ended, Entergy met with trial staff and other parties to discusshow the case should proceed going forward. Some of the parties took the position that there shouldbe a full hearing process, including the filing of testimony, preceded by up to six months ofadditional discovery. They also provided lists of issues that they want to be included in testimonyand a hearing. The issues raised by trial staff and other parties could delay resolution of this case bya year or more by interjecting issues far outside the scope to which the NYPSC and the ALJs haveprescribed for the case. In its petition, Entergy requests that the ALJs continue to enforce the scopethat the NYPSC imposed in its May 23, 2008 Order and preclude trial staff and other parties fromlitigating these broader issues.Benefits of the TransactionEntergy believes that the spin-off of its non-utility nuclear business is in the best interests ofits stakeholders, as well as the customers of the load serving entities in the regions in which itsnuclear facilities sell power. Accordingly, Entergy remains vigilant in seeking regulatory approval ofthe spin-off transaction.Entergy recognizes that the financial flexibility and strength of Enexus is of paramount importance. Ensuring the financial strength and flexibility of Enexus has been a critical area of focus for Entergy as it has prepared for Enexus to operate as a separate, independent company. Entergy believes its initially proposed terms for the spin-off afforded Enexus financial flexibility and strength that were more than adequate to meet the legal standard established for the regulatory approval of the reorganization. Nonetheless, in an effort to remove any possible basis for concern, further enhancements are being provided. Given these enhancements to the already robust financial attributes of Enexus, Entergy strongly believes that the separation of Enexus from Entergy will be good for New York and for the other states in which its facilities are located. Further, for purposes of reliably operating the New York facilities, Enexus will be positioned to be at least the financial equivalent of Entergy given Enexus significant financial resources and its singular focus on the merchant generation business.Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $13 billion and approximately 14,700 employees.Source: Entergy. New Orleans, La. July 14, 2009.last_img read more

Lake Champlain Committee promotes “Fix a Leak Week” March 14 through 20

first_imgThe Lake Champlain Committee is joining with the EPA’s WaterSense Program to promote Fix a Leak Week. Fix a Leak Week encourages Americans to find and fix residential leaks and to help put a stop to the more than 1 trillion gallons of water wasted from household leaks each year. Leaks can also account for more than 10,000 gallons of water in an average home every year’enough water to wash nearly 10 months’ worth of laundry.         ‘Conserving water saves money, saves energy, and helps reduce nutrient pollution in Lake Champlain’, notes LCC Executive Director Lori Fisher. ‘Letting a faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours. Even a pin-hole size leak can waste 4,000 gallons a month!’To help save water for future generations, the Lake Champlain Committee is asking consumers and businesses to take time during the coming week to improve water efficiency by finding and fixing leaks. Check for leaks. Look for dripping faucets, showerheads, and fixture connections. Also check for toilets with silent leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank and seeing if it appears in the bowl before you flush.Twist and tighten pipe connections. To save more water without a noticeable difference in flow, twist on a WaterSense labeled faucet aerator. Replace the fixture if necessary.Replacing older, inefficient bathroom fixtures with WaterSense labeled toilets, faucets, and showerheads will save money in utility and electric bills and help the lake. WaterSense labeled models are independently tested and certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models. In many cases, fixture replacement parts pay for themselves quickly and can be installed by handy do-it-yourselfers. For more complicated jobs, contact your favorite plumbing professional. Visit www.epa.gov/watersense(link is external) to find WaterSense labeled products in your area. For more information on the LCC, visit www.lakechamplaincommittee.org(link is external).WaterSense a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeks to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services. For more information on WaterSense, visit www.epa.gov/watersense(link is external)last_img read more

Green Mountain Power to buy electricity from Seabrook

first_imgGreen Mountain Power Corp,Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell announced today that it has reached a power purchase agreement with NextEra Energy Resources LLC, owner of the Seabrook, NH, nuclear power plant. The 23-year agreement is a fixed-price contract that adjusts with an inflation mechanism to protect customers from future power price swings.Click photo to watch.The energy price for 2012 is 4.66 cents per kilowatt hour. The initial load will be for 60 megawatts and over time be reduced to 40 MW. The 60 MW represents about 20 percent of GMP’s portfolio.GMP also negotiated a reserve of another 25 MW at the same price that Powell said will be available to other Vermont utilities, though no other has committed to it yet.Powell said: ‘It is a contract that fulfills the vision and promise that we made to our customers three years ago, which was to deliver power that is low in carbon, low in cost and incredibly reliable, while we also ramp up cost-effective renewable energy options for Vermont’s future.’NextEra CEO Lew Hay said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to provide power for a very long time that’s very affordable and is zero carbon output. We’re proud of the Seabrook plant. We’ve owned and operated that plant for the better part of eight years and it’s a very reliable plant. It’s a very efficient plant. And we hope this is the beginning of even more things to come.’NextEra bought Seabrook in 2002. Its license does not expire until 2030.Hay said Seabrook has plenty of capacity to make more deals but would not say if he is in negotiations with other Vermont utilities. He said NextEra was approached by Entergy Nuclear several months ago about buying the Vermont Yankee plant. Entergy said in April that it had attempted but failed to find a buyer for VY. Steve Costello from Central Vermont Public Service said his utility is in no rush to sign longterm contracts, given CVPS’ strong position at the moment and the buyer’s market which now exists in the New England power system.Powell said that this deal with Seabrook does not preclude any future power purchase agreement with the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, should VY successfully work its way through various legal and regulatory issues. Powell said that this deal with Seabrook does not preclude any future power purchase agreement with the Entergy Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon, should VY successfully work its way through various legal and regulatory issues.She said that this Seabrook deal, in conjunction with last year’s Hydro-Quebec agreement, fills GMP’s long-term baseload needs. She calls them “anchor tenants.” She said there is strategic room in the Colchester-based utility’s portfolio to look at different power purchase options as they may come along. She said that GMP is committed to maintaining a diverse portfolio.Pictured: Mary Powell with NEXTera Energy Chairman and CEO Lewis Hay III. Below, Powell chats with reporters before the press conference.Not including nuclear or Hydro-Quebec, Powell said the GMP renewable energy portfolio will account for 20 percent of the utility’s power by 2013. If Hydro-Quebec is included, that number goes up to 60 percent, she said.The announcement was made at Dynapower in South Burlington, whom Powell described as an important customer for GMP. Other important customers were also present.Janet Bombardier, the senior location executive at IBM Burlington, said that IBM is looking for quality, reliable, cost-effective power. She told Vermont Business Magazine that IBM’s concern with the uncertainty involving Vermont Yankee included the price. The current VY cost is about 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour.‘This helps keep those rates stable,’ she said.Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, based in Waterbury, is the fastest growing company in Vermont among the state’s 25 largest, according to VBM (January 2011). Its five-year growth rate is over 700 percent. Its 10 year growth rate is over 1,500 percent.As with IBM, it operates sophisticated machinery that require a large amount of reliable power.Paul Comey, GMCR’s VP for Environmental Affairs said his firm, as with GMP, is committed to renewable power and regularly buys offsets from around the country to achieve carbon neutrality.Betsy Bishop, president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce said, ‘I think this is a good day for the business community.’She said all electric customers in Vermont want low-cost, reliable, baseload power.Powell said in a statement: “This agreement is very favorable for our customers, and delivers on the vision Green Mountain Power launched three years ago to move to a cleaner, greener future in a cost effective way. We set out to accomplish this by ramping up cost effective renewables while we built a solid portfolio that is low in carbon, cost and is incredibly reliable. This provides the perfect platform for our continued efforts to pursue cost effective renewable energy options.””With this agreement, along with the recently approved Hydro Quebec contract and plans to build Kingdom Community Wind in Lowell, Green Mountain Power has delivered on the major components of its vision to provide reliable, low cost and low carbon resources,” Powell added.Located in southern New Hampshire, the 1,245-megawatt Seabrook nuclear power plant has been in operation since 1990. NextEra Energy Resources is the majority owner and operator of the plant.NextEra Energy Resources has more than 100 power generating facilities in 26 states and Canada.The Florida-based company is the leading US producer of wind power, and its solar array in California’s Mojave Desert is currently the largest in the United States. Green Mountain Power and NextEra Energy Resources hope to continue to collaborate on future renewable energy projects in Vermont as Green Mountain ramps down its portfolio dependence on Seabrook.Mitch Davidson, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources, said in a statement, “We anticipate that this is the first step in a long-term partnership with Green Mountain Power and the people of Vermont. We look forward to discussing new opportunities to partner with Vermont utilities, in particular in regards to promoting and developing renewable energy.”Beginning in 2015, GMP will take 60 megawatts of Seabrook power ramping down to 40 megawatts by the end of the contract, representing approximately 20 percent of its total overall energy mix. An additional 25 megawatts of power will be made available to other Vermont utilities on the same favorable terms. The agreement was reached after several months of negotiations, and must be approved by Vermont’s Public Service Board before taking effect.GMP will also purchase 15 megawatts of energy from NextEra Energy Resources for 2012-2014, a period during which GMP has been periodically replacing its expiring power supply contracts.Liz Miller, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, said, “GMP has struck a deal for a price that looks good for its own customers and for the customers of other Vermont utilities that decide to participate. Keeping costs down for Vermonters is great for the state’s economic development.” About Green Mountain PowerGreen Mountain Power (www.greenmountainpower.com(link is external)) transmits, distributes and sells electricity in the State of Vermont. It serves more than 175,000 people and businesses.About NextEra Energy ResourcesNextEra Energy Resources, LLC is a clean energy leader and one of the largest competitive energy suppliers in North America. A subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), NextEra Energy Resources is the largest generator in North America of renewable energy from the wind and sun. It operates clean, emissions-free nuclear power generation facilities in New Hampshire, Iowa and Wisconsin as part of the NextEra Energy nuclear fleet, which is the third largest in the United States. NextEra Energy had 2010 revenues of more than $15 billion, nearly 43,000 megawatts of generating capacity, and approximately 15,000 employees in 28 states and Canada. www.NextEraEnergyResources.com(link is external).last_img read more

Vermont second highest in nation for individual health premiums

first_imgAlabama$136AlaskaNAArizona$241Arkansas$163California$157Colorado$194Connecticut$306Delaware$169District of Columbia$226Florida$178Georgia$220Hawaii$232Idaho$167Illinois$203Indiana$214Iowa$210KansasNAKentucky$210Louisiana$206Maine$282Maryland$219Massachusetts$437Michigan$204Minnesota$250Mississippi$212Missouri$197Montana$191Nebraska$233NevadaNANew Hampshire$294New Jersey$364New MexicoNANew York$357North Carolina$207North Dakota$230OhioNAOklahomaNAOregon$207Pennsylvania$225Rhode Island$344South Carolina$211South Dakota$204Tennessee$204TexasNAUtah$173Vermont$401Virginia$240Washington$231West Virginia$333Wisconsin$201Wyoming$267 State Average Premium For additional information on premium variation please see Mapping Premium Variation in the Individual Market available at http://www.kff.org/healthreform/8214.cfm(link is external) Notes: Premiums are per member per month and represent an average across adults and children. Premiums may be lower than a premium typically charged to a single adult. United States$215center_img Only plans in the individual market providing medical coverage were included in the analysis. Sources: The state average premium values shown in the figure above represent the total premium revenue divided by the total member months of all major medical individual market plans for which data were available in each state in 2010.These data were downloaded on July 13, 2011 from the Mark Farrah Associates Health Coverage Portal, which includes information from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and California’s Department of Managed Health Care.States were classified as “not available” if a major plan was known to be missing and the number of people enrolled in individual major medical insurance, based on the NAIC data, was less than one third (33.3%) of the estimated number of non-elderly people with individual coverage in the state from 2008 – 2009 according to analysis in the Current Population Survey.Definitions: State Average Premium: Total Revenue in Premiums / Total Member Months of all Individual Market Plans for which data was available in each state. According to the Kaiser Family foundation, the average per-person health insurance premium in 2010 ranged in cost from approximately $136 per month in Alabama to more than $400 per month in Vermont and Massachusetts. The average across for all states was $215 per member per month. (see chart below)Given the fragmentation of the market and the lack of public data available about individual insurance premiums across the nation, the analysis provides an important baseline that consumers and policymakers can use to gauge the state of insurance affordability prior to the full implementation of health reform. Some states such as Vermont and Massachusetts already instituted insurance market reforms that enable people with pre-existing conditions to purchase coverage, resulting in higher average premiums. Other states permit insurers to exclude people with expensive illnesses, so average premiums reflect a healthier-than-average population. Starting in 2014, the national health reform law will prohibit insurers in all states from charging more to people with pre-existing conditions.SUMMARY Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will substantially reform the way in which individuals buy health insurance on their own. People who do not otherwise get health insurance through their employer or through public programs will soon be able to buy coverage through purchasing Exchanges, which will provide online comparison guides explaining the choices available. Insurers offering coverage in the Exchanges will be required to provide coverage to anyone regardless of a pre-existing health condition, and rates for the same policy will vary only by age, family status, tobacco use, and geographic area.How people perceive these changes may depend significantly on how the premiums compare to what they are buying today. However, information on the cost of the insurance people commonly buy in different parts of the country is difficult to come by. Insurers don’t generally provide public reports of enrollment and premiums by insurance product and geographic area, and national surveys lack sufficient sample size and benefit detail to compare individual (nongroup) insurance across areas. In addition, the market is quite fragmented: status and coverage varies significantly from insurer to insurer and product to product. For example, insurers in most states exclude people or impose surcharges based on their health status, while in some states this practice is not permitted.Insurer filings to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are a standardized source of information on health plan premiums and expenditures in the aggregate at the state level.  We analyzed these data ‘ compiled by Mark Farrah Associates ‘ to assess how average premiums in the individual insurance market varied across the country for 2010.Nationwide, the average monthly premium per person in the individual market in 2010 was $215, but the state-by-state range was substantial. Vermont and Massachusetts both had average per member per month premiums over $400 per month. The average premium revenues in Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey were also relatively high, ranging from about $344 to $364 per month. Alabama ($136), California($157), Arkansas ($163), Idaho ($167), and Delaware ($169) had the lowest average monthly premiums in the country. (Note that these figures represent average premium revenue per member per month. This represents an average across adults and children, so will be lower than a typical premium charged to a single adult.)There are a variety of reasons why premiums might vary, including: the cost of living, health care costs, state demographics (e.g., the age distribution of the population), plans’ effectiveness at controlling costs, the benefits offered by plans, and the patient cost-sharing required. Though premiums are lower in some states, the people enrolled in these plans may have to pay higher deductibles or copayments that offset the savings in premiums. Thus, the map above does not take into account the relative protection offered by the plans. Also, states that have instituted reforms in their insurance markets to make coverage more accessible ‘ such as Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, and New Jersey ‘ may have higher average premiums because people with pre-existing health conditions are able to enroll. Conversely, states that permit medical underwriting may have average premiums that are low because the risk pools include a healthier than average population.This analysis suggests substantial diversity in the insurance people buy across the country. Starting in 2014, the health reform law will require insurers to cover a standard essential benefit package in all states and to use defined tiers of cost-sharing. The minimum cost-sharing tier will require that all newly-purchased insurance in the non-group market have an actuarial value of at least 60%, meaning that the plan pays for at least 60% of the cost of covered benefits in the aggregate for a typical population. In addition, tax credits will be available to make coverage more affordable for people with incomes up to 400% of the poverty level ($43,560 for a single individual and $89,400 for a family of four in 2011 dollars). These changes should all help to narrow the variation in the insurance people buy in different areas of the country. But, a wide range of insurance policies will still be available (ranging from Bronze coverage at an actuarial value of 60% to Platinum coverage at an actuarial value of 90%), so patterns of purchase may still vary substantially across the country.The health reform law will also require all insurers in the individual (non-group) market to accept everyone regardless of health status and prohibit premium surcharges for people with pre-existing health conditions. These rules should narrow the variation in how much people pay for insurance in different parts of the country, but premiums will likely continue to vary considerably due to differences in the cost of living in general and health care, in particular.This brief was prepared by Cynthia Cox, Larry Levitt, Anthony Damico, and Gary Claxton of the Kaiser Family Foundation. last_img read more