Legislative Update 2.13.23


Devon Green, VP of Government Relations
The legislature had a busy week last week touching upon key advocacy priorities for VAHHS and more.
Workplace Violence: S.36 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill passed with an amendment put forward by VAHHS to address concerns about HIPAA preventing health care providers from disclosing to law enforcement that a patient had been discharged or was medically stable. The one “no” vote was supportive of the bill but worried that the disorderly conduct portion could be too broadly applied. The bill will now go to Senate Health and Welfare for consideration and then to the entire Senate.
Workforce Development: The House Health Care Committee passed several compact bills to streamline licensure of health care professionals. Once a state joins a compact, individuals licensed in a compact state can work in other compact states without having to obtain another state license. The committee voted in favor of the following compacts:
  • H.62, the interstate counseling compact
  • H.77, the physical therapy licensure compact
  • H.86, the audiology and speech language pathology compact
We applaud these efforts to streamline the licensure process while keeping Vermont patients safe.
Mental Health: The Department of Mental Health presented their FY 2024 budget to House Appropriations, highlighting:
  • Statewide expansion of the mobile crisis program
  • Peer support credentialing
  • Therapeutic alternatives to the emergency department in the Northeast Kingdom
Meanwhile, the House Health Care Committee heard testimony on suicide prevention from state officials, health care providers, and survivors of suicide loss. Vermont has a higher rate of suicide than the rest of the nation. Dr. Rebecca Bell from UVMMC and Dr. Thomas Delaney from UVM Larner College of Medicine testified on self-poisoning and suicide by firearm. Impulsivity is a major factor in firearm suicide deaths, and safe storage can prevent suicide by firearm. Health care providers can play a key role in this effort through firearm screening and firearm safety counseling.
Post-Acute and Long Term Care: The Department of Disabilities Aging and Independent Living presented their FY 2024 budget, including components to help stabilize the post-acute and long term care system:
  • $17.8 million in rate increases for nursing homes
  • $3 million in rate increases for home health providers
  • $8.2 million for developmental services
Regulatory Flexibilities: The Health Care Association Coalition, including VAHHS, presented their recommendations on which COVID flexibilities should be extended for another year and which should be made permanent, including:
  • Extend until March 31, 2024 the deeming health care providers who are licensed and in good standing in another state and working in a health care facility in Vermont to be licensed in Vermont for up to six months
  • To effectively implement this, the coalition also requested that Medicaid and commercial insurers accept deeming for purposes of credentialing and enrollment
  • Make permanent remote witnessing for advance directives and provision for electronic signatures
Data Privacy: VAHHS testified for an exemption for HIPAA-covered entities and non-profit organizations under H.121, a data privacy bill. VAHHS argued that HIPAA is comprehensive and struck a good balance of privacy for patients while still allowing for coordinated care and public health research. Several other states with updated data privacy laws include this exemption, as does model legislation from Consumer Reports.