Legislative Update 1.17.22

Devon Green, VP of Government Relations

A State House Divided…

Late last week, the House overwhelmingly voted to return in person tomorrow with exemptions for those who request it. The Senate will continue to work remotely.

How will this hybrid legislating work? What will happen to all of the non-legislator denizens? Will this allow more or less transparency and access? Stay tuned!

Health Care Workforce: The House Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2022 budget adjustment, including:

$60 million, up from the governor’s proposed $33 million in retention funding for health care workers with priority for employers with highest need and greatest impact. These numbers include home- and community-based health care workers.
$25 million to cover current traveler contracts, including those for ICUs and long term care facilities
In the House Health Care committee, Dan Bennett, CEO & President at Gifford Medical Center, testified to the impact the health care worker crisis is having on his hospital. VAHHS requested legislative language that would require the Green Mountain Care Board to recognize labor costs and investments during the hospital budget process for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

Extending regulatory flexibilities: The Senate Health and Welfare and House Health Care committees continued to work on regulatory flexibilities for health care organizations, assigning a number to the committee bill in record timing. Representatives from the Health Care Association Coalition, which includes VAHHS, supported extending almost all of the regulatory flexibilities until March 31, 2023 and came to an agreement with the Office of Professional Regulation and Board of Medical Practice to extend the flexibility for out-of-state licensees practicing in Vermont until March 31, 2023 with the parameter that anyone practicing longer than six months must obtain a Vermont license.

Prohibition of Firearms in Hospital Buildings: Along with VAHHS, Dr. Ryan Sexton, from Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and Claudio Fort, President & CEO of Rutland Regional Medical Center, testified in favor of prohibiting guns in hospital buildings. All stressed that a hospital is a place full of vulnerable patients and workers where emotions can run high. They advocated for S. 30, which would allow health care workers to call law enforcement immediately for help, rather than having to confront the gun owner as required now under current trespass law.

Mask Mandate: Continuing its forward momentum, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee took up the issue of a statewide mask mandate with a draft bill that they plan to vote out on Tuesday. The bill requires all individuals two years and older to wear a mask or cloth facial covering in public indoor spaces, with some limited exceptions. The mandate would stay in place until county transmission rates are below “substantial” as determined by the CDC.

Patient Choice at End-of-Life: The Senate Health and Welfare Committee also heard testimony on S.74, which eliminates certain barriers to the current end-of-life law and broadening immunity to anyone acting in good faith under the law, including pharmacists and other members of the care team.