Hospital spending growth slow in Vermont

Hospital budgets in Vermont will rise at one of the lowest rates on record, with many of the state's inpatient care facilities filing estimated budgets significantly lower than the numbers projected by the state's Green Mountain Care Board.

Green Mountain Care set hospital budgets for fiscal 2015 to increase no more than 3 percent, with another 0.8 percent set aside for tasks related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Brattleboro Reformer. Altogether, the state's 14 hospitals say that their budgets will rise a total of 3.1 percent, of which 0.6 percent will be earmarked for healthcare reform initiatives.

The budgets range from $18 million at rural Grace Cottage Hospital to more than $1 billion at Fletcher Allen Health Care, the state's largest hospital operator, according to the Montpelier Times Argus. Altogether, they will rise $67 million for a total of $2.2 billion.

At some providers, such as Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, revenues will increase as little as 2.1 percent.

"As a statewide system, Vermont's hospitals continue to do the hard work to meet our expectations for restrained budget growth," Green Mountain Care Chairman Al Gobeille told the Times Argus.

The rise, although modest, was actually higher than last year's increase of 2.7 percent. But it is far lower than the 2012 increase, which was 7.1 percent. The budgetary growth is in line with several other indicators that show healthcare spending has slowed down significantly in recent years. Green Mountain Care also expects to eventually make changes from its current fee-for-service to something that more up-to-date.

Vermont is currently mulling a single-payer health system, which would make it the first in the U.S. to adopt such a payment model. Some estimates say that such a system would cost the state as much as $2.2 billion a year, which is a number similar to the current spending on the hospital level.

To learn more:
- read the Brattleboro Reformer article
- check out the Times Argus article