Legislative Session Begins Wrapping Up

by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

That collective itch in the air isn’t allergies—it is Vermonters dying to get outside into the warm temperatures and sunshine, and our legislators are not immune to it. Welcome to what could be the last week of the legislative session!

Last Week: Children waiting in EDs for mental health treatment: The House Health Care Committee sent a letter to the Agency of Human Services, the Department of Education, and VAHHS with a framework for addressing long wait times for children in emergency departments waiting for mental health treatment. The framework includes dates by which the Agency of Human Services will: provide ongoing weekly reports with data on children waiting in emergency departments; establish a target date by which the average length of stay will not exceed 24 hours; and provide an outline of ongoing and completed emergency action steps. The letter also asks hospitals to take immediate steps to address the crisis of children waiting in EDs, which could include:

  • ED or crisis staff providing more support to children and caregivers
  • Segregating children from adults or other ED stressors
  • Dimming lights, if possible
  • Expanding the use of telehealth

With Commissioner Sarah Squirrell leaving the Department of Mental Health, VAHHS sees the framework as a way to ensure continued focus and work on this important issue.

Forensic Care Working Group: The House passed an amended version of S.3 which provides $25,000 in funding towards a working group, including a representative of the Designated Hospitals, to examine gaps in the current mental health and criminal justice system to improve public safety and address treatment needs for those who are incompetent to stand trial or adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity. The new language also provides more time for the group to come up with workable solutions. 

Health insurance market update: The Department of Vermont Health Access updated the House Health Care Committee on changes to health care coverage under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), including:

  • More generous premium tax credits/subsidies for people who currently receive premium tax credits

  • Expanded premium tax credit/subsidy eligibility for Vermonters with higher incomes

  • Households with one week of unemployment are eligible for zero-premium plans

  • Holiday on tax credit reconciliation for 2020

  • Eligibility for COBRA without cost for April 1-Sept. 30 2021

Contact if your hospital needs resources for discussing these changes with patients or would like to be connected with the Department of Vermont Health Access for Assister training.

This Week

Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact: The House provided initial approval to S.48, the bill that would allow Vermont to join the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact. This week, we’re expecting to see final approval and hoping for a quick concurrence from the Senate.Leg