Legislative Update 5.1.23


Devon Green, VP of Government Relations
Legislative Update
Hold on tight. This is when being in the building matters most. Language changes come in at the last minute and the addition or deletion of one word can make a big difference. See below for what we’ve been following.
Workplace Violence: The Senate concurred with the House changes to S.36, the workplace violence bill with one change—adding “tumultuous” back into the definition of disorderly conduct. The House will likely consider the amendment his week.
Budget: The Senate budget maintained several rate increases and funding to assist the health care system, including:
  • $763,000 to increase rates for primary care to 110% of Medicare
  • $1.65 million to increase specialty care rates by 3.8%
  • $5.7 million to increase dental rates to 75% of commercial rates and expand dental coverage
  • $10 million for exigent circumstances due to COVID
Workforce: The Senate-passed budget has the following workforce development proposals:
  • $3.8 million for critical occupational scholarships to Vermont State Colleges (includes nursing, mental health counseling, and dental hygienists)
  • $1 million for a forgivable loan program for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners
  • $100,000 for a forgivable loan program for dental hygienists
  • $1 million for EMS training
Mental Health: The mental health initiatives in the Senate-passed budget include:
  • $1.15 million for mobile crisis response expansion
  • $690,000 for Northeast Kingdom psychiatric therapeutic alternatives
  • $9.2 million to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center for adolescent psychiatric inpatient beds
  • $10.1 million to expand mental health and pediatric services in the Blueprint for Health
Suicide Prevention: H.481 put forward several public health initiatives to address death by suicide. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee advanced the bill with an amendment that requires the Director of Suicide Prevention and stakeholders to develop and submit a model protocol regarding suicide prevention and postvention services as well as interventions for eating disorders.
Regulatory Issues: There was a lot going on in the regulatory world last week, including:
APS Bill: The Senate Health and Welfare Committee advanced H.171, a bill that updates the process for reporting and investigating abuse of vulnerable adults. After hearing concerns from the provider association coalition, the committee maintained the current definition of abuse and neglect instead of accepting Adult Protective Services’ language to expand the definition to include a negligent mindset and define mistakes and errors as abuse. VAHHS appreciates this change and the Senate Health and Welfare Committee’s work on this bill.
DVHA Miscellaneous bill: The Senate Health and Welfare passed the H.206, the miscellaneous bill from DVHA with an amendment that maintains 340B protections against Pharmacy Benefit Managers that were set to expire. The bill also contains limitations on hospital liens in accident cases passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Cybersecurity: The Senate Government Operations Committee advanced H.291, a bill that creates a cybersecurity council to advise on the state’s cybersecurity infrastructure, best practices, communications protocol, and other safeguards. The council is an improvement on the previous version, which had the Green Mountain Care Board creating standards for health care facilities.
Unused Prescription Drug Repository: In what I consider one of the warmest and fuzziest bills of the session, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed H.414, which would allow the Agency of Human Services to establish an unused drug repository program for Vermont. The state and providers came together in support of this program because of its potential to eliminate prescription drug waste and reduce prescription drug costs for Vermonters. 
Prior Authorization: The House Health Care Committee heard a presentation from the Green Mountain Care Board and the Department of Financial Regulation on prior authorizations. The Committee make prior authorization a priority next year.