Legislative Update: 9-24-20

By Devon Green, Vice President of Government Relations

Two more weeks to go in this strange and abbreviated legislative session. Last week, the House passed H.969, the FY ’21 budget, with minor changes from the governor’s proposal. One health care-related item in the budget includes language around integrating public funding for inpatient mental health care within the DVHA budget

Health Care Provider Workforce: The Senate Health and Welfare committee voted in favor of H.607 on Friday, a bill aimed at increasing the supply of nurses and primary care providers in Vermont. The bill creates two workforce scholarship programs. The Rural Primary Care Physician Scholarship Program will fund in-state medical school tuition for up to five third-year and up to five fourth-year medical students who commit to practicing primary care in a rural area with a health professional shortage or a medically underserved area of Vermont for at least two years. The legislation also funds $1.38 million in nursing scholarships. Students pursuing practical nursing, associate's or bachelor's degrees in nursing that commit to working in Vermont for at least one year after licensure are eligible for the scholarship. 

Hospital Price Transparency: The Senate Health and Welfare Committee advanced H.795, a bill that requires the Green Mountain Care Board to use the Vermont Health Care Uniform Reporting and Evaluation (VHCURES) data to develop a dashboard that would allow consumers to review the price of a procedure at different hospitals by February 15, 2022. 

The committee also amended the bill with the following:

  • Requiring the GMCB to provide recommendations on increasing hospital financial sustainability to the Legislature by September 1, 2021. Information submitted by the hospitals to inform the sustainability recommendations shall be confidential.  

  • Requiring the GMCB to work with the Department of Financial Regulation and the Agency of Human Services to identify ways to improve provider sustainability and increase equity in reimbursement amounts among providers. 

  • Providing Department of Financial Regulation with the authority to require health insurers to waive or limit cost-sharing requirements related to COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, including tests for influenza, pneumonia, or other respiratory viruses when it is the primary or secondary diagnosis.

State Emergency Powers: The Senate Government Operations Committee passed their “lessons learned” bill that establishes statutory provisions that can be used for the operation of government in cases of emergency. The bill establishes a process for health care licensure issues, which had been a problem at the start of the pandemic, including extending licenses, out-of-state licensed health care professionals licensed in Vermont, allowing retired health care professionals to practice under certain requirements, allowing the Director of the Office of Professional Regulation to act on behalf of the boards attached to the office and allowing the Executive Director of the Board of Medical Practice to act on behalf its licensed providers.