Legislative Update 1.10.22
Devon Green, VP of Government Relations
Although they were firmly in their home offices, the legislators hit the ground running last week and took up our top priorities of health care workforce, extending regulatory flexibilities and telehealth. The amount of activity during what is usually a “getting up to speed” week speaks volumes. Hopefully we will see even more activity when Governor Scott presents his FY 2023 budget, which is tentatively scheduled for January 18th.
Health Care Workforce: The legislature took up the issue of workforce right away, with the Scott Administration presenting its mid-year FY 2022 budget adjustment proposals, including:
- $25 million to cover current traveler contracts, including those for ICUs and long term care facilities
- $15 million in retention funding with priority for employers with highest need and greatest impact
- $1.4 million in staffing incentives to open beds at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital
The Director of Health Care Reform presented the Health Care Workforce Strategic Plan’s findings to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, House Health Care Committee and House Commerce and Economic Development Committee. All committees will continue to work on this issue.
Extending regulatory flexibilities: The Senate Health and Welfare and House Health Care Committees dug right into Act 6 and regulatory flexibilities for health care organizations during COVID-19. Representatives from the Health Care Association Coalition, which includes VAHHS, supported extending almost all of the regulatory flexibilities until March 31, 2023. The committees stressed their commitment to addressing these issues prior to their expiration on March 31, 2022.
Telehealth: The health care committees also met on the future of telehealth licensure in Vermont. The Office of Professional Regulation presented the Act 21 Interstate Telehealth Working Group’s findings and recommendations for short term and long term telehealth licensure:
- Near Term: The current flexibility of allowing health care clinicians to practice telehealth in Vermont as long as the clinician has a license in good standing in another state ends on March 31, 2022.
- Short Term: From April 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, telehealth practitioners will register with the licensing authority.
- Long Term: Going forward from July 1, 2023 there would be a tiered approach:
- Registration: for less than 120 days and fewer than 10 patients
- Telehealth License: for up to two years, renewable, up to 20 patients
- Full License or Compact: for two years, renewable, and 20 or more patients
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Bracing for Impact
As we close the door on 2021 and look to the new year, here’s what I sadly cannot tell you—that COVID will be gone and life will return to how it was in January of 2020. We are never going back. COVID is here to stay in one form or another. The holiday wave of cases set infection records unimaginable in the early days of the pandemic. With Omicron spreading rapidly, our hospitals face the possibility of another surge of patients in the coming weeks.