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Gov. Phil Scott signs prior authorization bill after push by health care advocates

Vermont's governor, at a podium, in a striped tie and dark blazer
Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Public
Advocates say Gov. Scott's decision to sign a bill that allows primary care physicians to bypass the prior authorization process will improve Vermonters' access to timely health care.

Gov. Phil Scott has signed legislation designed to provide more timely health care services for Vermonters.

The bill allows primary care physicians to order tests and certain medications for their patients without first seeking prior authorization from an insurance company — a process many doctors say can delay treatments for weeks and months.

More from Vermont Public: Health care advocates ask Vermont Senate to approve legislation that could reform prior authorization

Jessa Barnard is executive director of the Vermont Medical Society, which represents 2,900 doctors and physician assistants in the state. The bill was a top priority for her organization.

"Vermont clinicians definitely don't go right to the most expensive options," Barnard said. "You know, they'll talk about generic medications or whether a test or an image is really necessary, based on that patient in front of them and what their health care needs are."

Dr. Anne Morris, a physician at the Milton Family Practice, said the bill will allow her patients to get cost effective treatment more quickly.

"And I think it's a win for all Vermonters, in terms of improving their access to care and helping them get the quality primary care that they need to try to keep them out of our ERs and out of our hospitals," Morris said.

The policy is also intended to significantly cut down on administrative paperwork for medical providers.

Several insurance companies say the bill will boost premium rates. Scott said he's directing state regulators to study the impact of the new law during its first year.

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Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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