Legislative Update 3.6.23


Devon Green, VP of Government Relations
Happy Town Meeting Week! You may see your local legislator out in the wild at the grocery store or the transfer station. If you do, feel free to share the VAHHS Advocacy Agenda. Next week will be crossover week, where non-money bills must be voted out of committees or else remain on the wall until next year. Stay tuned!
Workplace Violence: The Senate Health and Welfare Committee continues to work on S.36. VAHHS appreciates that the committee amended the bill to increase the criminal threatening penalty when the crime is committed against health care workers. The amended bill also requires the Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care (VPQHC) to recommend best practices for trainings at health care facilities, as seen through an equity lens. The committee also took the Health Care Advocate’s recommendation of narrowing disorderly conduct to engaging in fighting, violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior. The committee is still trying to determine if warrantless arrest in a health care facility should apply to any part of disorderly conduct and will return to the issue next week.
Budget: The House Health Care Committee provided its priorities to House Appropriations for the FY 2024 budget. The Committees supported several initiatives that were not in the Governor’s budget, including:
  • Increase Medicaid rates to 110% of Medicare for primary care providers and give specialy care providers a 3.8% inflation increase at $5.6 million
  • Bring Medicaid to 100% of Medicare reimbursement for EMS providers
  • Funding for a Regional EMS Coordination Study Committee
  • Expansion of Soteria House, a therapeutic community residence for those in mental health crisis, from 4 to 9 beds
The Committee also supports the following from the Governor’s proposed budget:
  • Increasing reimbursement for Medicaid dental to 75% of 2023 commercial rates for a total of $13.1 million
  • Expansion of the mobile crisis unit for response to mental health calls at $3.4 million
  • $1.5 million for an alternative to the emergency department for those in mental health crisis in the Northeast Kingdom
  • One-time funding totaling $10 million to continue to support the health care continuum with the capacity crisis
  • $15.6 million for the Blueprint for health program to integrate mental health into primary care, expand the Hub and Spoke model to include other types of SUD treatment, and expand the DULCE Program assisting families with newborns
Abuse of Vulnerable Adults: The House Human Services Committee reviewed its latest draft of H.171, which updates the adult protective services statute. The proposed language expands the definition of abuse to include negligent medical treatment. This definition would counteract health care’s current efforts to encourage providers to come forward with deviations from the standard of care to better improve the system and safety for all patients.
The definition of abuse also includes withholding of necessary medical care, which creates an extremely difficult standard when the patient refuses care or in end of life care situations where family members may disagree. VAHHS joined with other health care provider associations to express their concerns on expanding the definition of abuse.