Legislative Update 3-16-20

If you’ve ever wondered what the opposite of social distancing looks like, the Vermont State House is a good approximation. It has hundreds of people crammed together in very small rooms with very little air circulation. Normally, this is slightly uncomfortable, but the atmosphere shifted to a palpable level of anxiety as the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 was now a pandemic. The legislature reacted quickly, asking us what tools hospitals needed to respond to COVID-19. VAHHS worked with all the other provider groups with a list of requests, and the House passed out a bill, H.742, addressing COVID-19 on Friday evening—about 30 hours after their initial request—definitely the fastest I have ever seen them move on a bill. 

The legislature also took the wise step of shutting down for this week and postponing the crossover deadline. This means that all bills are still alive, even if they haven’t made it out of their committees. Unfortunately, this also means that the COVID-19 bill still has to go through the Senate before it can get to the governor’s desk. Sen. Lyons, the Chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, has said they will work on this bill this week.

A special thank you to our legislators, particularly Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Rep. Bill Lippert and the entire House Health Care Committee, and Jennifer Carbee, the lawyer from the Legislative Council, who spent much, if not all, of Thursday night drafting the bill and consulting with all of the health care provider representatives. Their rapid response is much appreciated.

Another huge thank you to Scott administration staff members. We urged them to declare a state of emergency, and they did so on Friday. You can find the entire executive order here, with a summary below. We will be working with the administration all week to help address hospital concerns and priorities.  

Click here for a breakdown of the federal powers under the national state of emergency and the state powers under the Vermont state of emergency.

Most importantly, thank you to all the hospitals and health care providers who are working around the clock on this issue.