Digger Tidbits: Rx phone line turns X-rated; note-passing goes high-tech

Prescription drug enrollment program turns sex line

Lawmakers offered a lot of amendments to this year’s health care reform bill, but few raised more eyebrows than Rep. Oliver Olsen’s request to have the joint fiscal office study the state’s participation in I-SaveRx.

The drug enrollment program the state entered into in 2005 flopped, and now Vermonters trying to buy prescriptions through the mail will be surprised to reach some sort of phone sex line when they dial the number.

VTDigger.org verified this fact, but we’re not going to list the phone number here. That might jeopardize our non-profit status.

Olsen, a Republican from Jamaica, withdrew the amendment from the complicated health care bill, but he said there is a serious aspect to it. The state is embarking on a new experiment with health care reform, he said, and it should study its past mistakes.

-Alan Panebaker

Passing notes in class

Rep. Dustin Degree, a Republican from St. Albans, called foul this week when the chair of the House Committee on Health Care and the governor’s director of Health Care Reform engaged in iPad-to-iPad communication on the House floor.

When Republicans pressed Mike Fisher, the chair of the committee, on the pending health care reform bill, Robin Lunge, the director of Health Care Reform, slipped him some quick answers via electronic message.

Degree said he had a hunch that something fishy was going on throughout the day when Fisher would check his device when Republicans offered a real zinger of a question.

Lawmakers shouldn’t get a cheat sheet, Degree said, especially on test day.

It’s common practice for lawmakers to ask for leave to clarify something, but “there’s a big difference between saying you want to confer versus real-time streaming of information between the executive branch and the reporter of a bill,” Degree said.

He said it is a disservice to Vermonters if the chair of a committee cannot answer questions on his own.

Lunge said passing notes is a long tradition which the Legislature has always allowed.

She said it is not uncommon for lawmakers who have common interests with the executive branch to ask for assistance.

Lunge said it is standard practice for lawmakers to get notes from pages or take recesses to converse with anyone from other representatives to lobbyists. Technology has just made that process easier.

-Alan Panebaker


  1. Wendy Wilton :

    Some kinda representation–absent the checks and balances thing–going on there under the dome!

  2. Oliver Olsen :

    Just to clarify. I withdrew my amendment on Thursday with then intention of reintroducing it on Friday to provide the Healthcare Committee some time to look into the issue. On Friday, I offered an amendment to eliminate the I-SaveRX program in Vermont. I also offered a separate amendment that would have had the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office analyze the program and report back on key findings and lessons learned, e.g. cost to the taxpayers, number of participants, how much partcipants were able to save. More generally, the report would have summarized the successes and failures of the program.

    The amendment to eliminate the I-SaveRX program in Vermont passed. The amendment asking for a report failed. The good news is that we eliminated a defunct program from our statutes, but the bad news is that we won’t take the time to understand what went wrong and what we could have done differently to make it more successful.



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