Legislative Update 4-5-21

By Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations
April is usually a make or break month at the legislature—as in, you try to make it through the month without it breaking you. This year feels particularly make or break not only at the legislature, but also with Vermont’s race to vaccinate against the emergence of new variants. With that in mind, please check out the VAHHS information page on vaccines and spread the word!

Last Week

Hospital Financials: VAHHS and the Green Mountain Care Board testified on the current state of financial uncertainty faced by hospitals during COVID. Right now, hospitals have a $3.2 million operating margin on a $2.4 billion hospital system. VAHHS pointed out that this trend was unsustainable and that hospitals need to be able to reinvest in their facilities, health care innovation, and health care reform. Both the Green Mountain Care Board and VAHHS recommended that federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) target health care reform projects.
Provider Reimbursement Options: In accordance with Act 159, the Green Mountain Care Board presented options to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee to increase equity in reimbursement amounts among providers. The Green Mountain Care Board presented three options: (1) setting health system budgets; (2) setting reimbursement parameters and limiting provider growth rates, similar to Vermont’s current hospital budget process; (3) fee-for-service rate setting. The GMCB testified that fee-for-service rate setting would be counter to Vermont’s health care reform efforts. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is interested in exploring options (1) and (2) further.

This Week

Mental Health Data Collection and Disclosures: The Senate Health and Welfare Committee will consider a bill requiring inpatient psychiatric units to inform patients that the units are locked and that the patients can request to change their legal status from involuntary to voluntary. The bill also would expand reporting on emergency department delays for patients seeking mental health care. 
COVID Relief Bill: The House will take up the COVID Relief Bill with the addition of the provision that would allow VITL and VDH to share immunization data, a provision that was stripped out of a previous bill, to inform COVID vaccination. VAHHS supports this measure.