Legislative Update 2-24-20

There’s always a part of the session where I’m reminded that advocating for hospitals goes beyond health care.  That happened this week as I found myself testifying in the House Transportation Committee on travel demand management plans (TDMs).  The proposed legislation requires all large employers to provide financial incentives for carpooling and telecommuting.  I had the opportunity to team up with two of my most talented health care colleagues—Laura Pelosi, representing the Vermont Health Care Association, and Jill Mazza Olson, representing the VNAs of Vermont.  We asked for an exemption for 24-hour health care facilities because our staffing needs and scheduling practices make these sorts of incentives unmanageable, especially in rural areas.  Resources would be better spent on supporting H.723, which expands telehealth so that patients do not have to drive long distances unnecessarily to see specialists. 

Our hospitals touch on so many different advocacy areas—from workforce to environment to community development.  I feel privileged to represent Vermont’s hospitals on all of these fronts and equally lucky to work with some of the smartest colleagues around.

Last Week

Prior authorization: Michael Rousse, CMO at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, testified on behalf of the Vermont Medical Society about the administrative burden of prior authorizations to providers.  He proposed implementing a Gold Card Program for commercial insurance and Medicaid. The Gold Card program would automatically exempt all health care providers with a 90 percent approval rate over a 12-month period from the prior authorization process for medical procedures and medical tests, including imaging. VAHHS supports this proposal because it will reduce the administrative burden of providers, which is the most reported frustration of health care providers in Vermont.

Workforce: The House Health Care Committee sent over their recommendations to the House Appropriations Committee, which included funding for scholarships for nurses and physicians.  The committee recommended that the $1 million in tax incentives for nurses from the governor’s proposed budget will likely fund the scholarships for nurses. VAHHS appreciates this financial commitment to developing the health care provider workforce.

Planning for the care and treatment of patients with cognitive impairments: VAHHS testified on a bill that would require Vermont’s Commission on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders to create a state inventory of programs and long-term strategy and make recommendations on mandatory continuing education for health care providers. It also requires health care providers to disclose a diagnosis and treatment plan to family members after implied consent and requires hospitals to create operational plans to identify and manage patients with dementia or delirium. VAHHS testified on the innovative work the Alzheimer’s Hub and Spoke group is doing around providing an early diagnostic and resource referral tool integrated in the electronic medical record systems of hospitals and primary care physicians.  VAHHS does not want the bill’s planning requirements to take away from Vermont’s current efforts to diagnose and manage the care of Alzheimer’s patients.

This Week

Implementation of Health Care Reform: The Senate Health and Welfare committee will be taking further testimony on their implementation of the health care
reform bill. 

Board of Medical Practice Hearing Procedures: VAHHS will be testifying in the House Health Care committee in support of physician access to files during an investigation and disciplinary hearing.