Legislative Update: 9-28-20

And, that’s a wrap to the weird and wild 2019-2020 biennium. Below is a summary of the major health care initiatives that passed.  
Legislators will now pivot to campaign mode for their respective races. Check your mail for your ballot and please VOTE! 
The following health initiatives are heading to the governor’s desk; for a comprehensive summary of the entire 2020 session, go here
Primary care and nursing workforce: After some back and forth on revenue sources, the legislature adopted one of the recommendations out of the Rural Health Services Task Force and passed H.607, which creates $1.6 million in scholarships for nurses and rural primary care providers.
$100 cap for 30-day supply of insulin: The budget included a requirement that health insurers cover insulin so that consumers will only pay $100 out of pocket for a 30-day supply starting in 2022.
Hazard Pay Program: The budget also incorporated an expansion in the current hazard pay program to include traveling nurses, contracted janitorial, security, and food services at health care facilities, and resident physicians or dentists earning less than $25 per hour. The budget also allocates an additional $20 million to the fund for a total of $48 million.
$3 million for testing at hospitals and nursing homes: The budget allocates $3 million to assist hospitals and nursing homes with COVID-19 testing.
Hospital price transparency, hospital sustainability, provider sustainability, and coverage of flu tests: Under H.795 the Green Mountain Care Board shall continue to create a hospital price transparency dashboard by February 15, 2022 using the Vermont Health Care Uniform Reporting and Evaluation (VHCURES) data. The Green Mountain Care Board must also make recommendations to the legislature on increasing hospital financial sustainability by September 1, 2021. The bill addresses the confidentiality of information provided by hospitals regarding financial sustainability. In addition, the amendment requires 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. The legislation also clarifies Department of Financial Regulation emergency COVID-19 rulemaking authority 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.  
Office of Professional Regulation Omnibus Bill: The omnibus Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) Bill passed both chambers and will be sent to the Governor for action. The bill, S.220, includes a provision to eliminate the requirement that clinical nurse educators have Master’s Degrees. The bill also expands the scope of practice of pharmacists to give them limited prescribing authority for some maintenance medications and potentially expand authority for influenza vaccine administration to other age groups including pediatrics. The legislation also allows pharmacists to administer tests
for COVID-19. 
Emergency Measures Legislation: The legislature passed S.354, a bill that establishes certain legal and regulatory flexibilities during declared states of emergency. The legislation establishes a process to extend a license to practice in a profession attached to the Office of Professional Regulation, deems out-of-state licensed health care professionals licensed in Vermont, allows retired health care professionals to practice under certain requirements, allows the Director of the Office of Professional Regulation to act on behalf of the boards attached to the office and allows the Executive Director of the Board of Medical Practice to act on behalf of its licensed providers.