Legislative Update 1.31.2022

Devon Green, VP of Government Relations
I get it. No one wants to talk about COVID anymore. Let’s put this thing in the rearview mirror and move on with our lives, but a lot of the health care workers I’m talking to are more demoralized than ever as we continue to deal with capacity issues and various shortages from COVID therapeutics to blood. If you encounter someone in the health care field, please give them a kind word.
Workforce: The Director of Health Care Reform presented the workforce initiatives from Governor Scott’s FY ’23 budget to the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, including:
  • $3 million to expand nurse scholarship programs
  • $2 million to expand nurse student loan repayment programs
  • $1,000 refundable tax credit for nurses
  • Creation of a state marketing campaign to attract health care workforce from outside Vermont and to increase enrollment in health care education programs
  • Investments in childcare and housing
Rep. Mari Cordes also advocated for additional initiatives to address the nursing shortage, including:
  • Required wage increases and a state wage standard
  • Available childcare in the workplace
  • Mandated leave benefits
  • LNA to RN bridge program
  • Greater transparency of hospital executive pay
The committee plans on taking additional testimony on health care workforce initiatives.
Mental Health: VAHHS testified in support of bills S.194, peer-operated respite centers, S.195, certification of mental health peer support specialists, and S.197, coordinated mental health crisis response working group, in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. VAHHS broadly supports more coordination and resources across the mental health care continuum. For the coordinated mental health crisis response working group, VAHHS urged the committee to have the workgroup address the issue of patients who have assaulted health care workers being returned to the same emergency department to await in-person treatment.
No Surprises Act: The Department of Financial Regulation provided a high-level overview of the federal No Surprises Act and its proposal to enforce the federal law at the state level. The Department of Financial Regulations envisions a complaint-based enforcement process. The Vermont Medical Society and Bi-State Primary Care testified on the difficulty of implementing the new federal requirements and the Department of Financial Regulation said it will work with providers prior to any punitive actions. The House Health Care Committee drafted H.489 to move this framework forward.
Telehealth: The House Health Care Committee took up H.655, which creates a tiered approach to telehealth licensure, which would take effect on July 1, 2023:
  • 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
The current telehealth flexibilities remain in effect until March From April 1st until March 30, 2023 health care providers must undergo a quick registration process to practice telehealth in Vermont under H.654.
Health Care Regulation: Donna Kinzer, the consultant hired by the legislative Task Force on Affordable, Accessible Health Care presented recommendations to manage costs and improve the health care delivery system to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, including:
  • Allocating funding the Green Mountain Care Board to hire a consultant to perform per capita benchmarking analyses to compare Vermont nationally and peer-to-peer, as well as an analysis of avoidable utilization and waste. This analysis will cost $500-$750k.
  • Expanding fixed global payments to further move away from the fee for service system. This work will cost $2M-$5M.
  • Escalate the process for data model options and strategies to drive care delivery transformation and cost containment.
Prohibition of Firearms in Hospitals: The House passed the latest version of S.30, which prohibits firearms in hospitals and closes the “Charleston Loophole.” The bill will now head back to the Senate.