January 12, 2021


VMS January 2021 Webinar: Emerging Information on COVID-19

Please join us on Thursday, January 21, 2020 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm for our VMS January webinar, "Emerging Information on COVID-19." Patsy Tassler Kelso, PhD, the State Epidemiologist for Infectious Disease at the Vermont Department of Health (VDH), will discuss how COVID-19 has developed, spread, and led to necessary public health changes in Vermont. The discussion will be drawing on Vermont's public health expertise and cover emerging issues related to COVID-19 epidemiology and vaccine distribution. Objectives of the webinar include:

  1. Understanding the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Vermont.
  2. Identifying ways in which Vermont’s response is data-driven.
  3. Describing Vermont’s progress with COVID-19 vaccines administered to date.
  4. Understanding next steps for vaccine distribution.

To register click here. To see the entire VMS Thursday Webinar series for 2020/2021 click here. This webinar will take place at the same time VMS is hosting our scheduled Commissioner Call. We will provide both events as opportunities for VMS members to obtain up-to-date information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.


Vermont COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Vermont continues to make progress in providing the COVID-19 vaccine to State health care personnel and the residents/staff at our long-term care facilities. January 11th, the deadline for hospitals to contact health care workers in their hospital service area to schedule vaccine administration has passed. If you are a Vermont health care worker providing direct care to patients and you have not been contacted in order to be registered for your COVID-19 vaccine please reach out to Elizabeth Alessi at elessi@vtmd.org, who can provide you a point of contact at your local hospital.  Although vaccine dose supply remains low, Vermont currently ranks first in the Northeast at 4.13 doses administered per 100 residents. Vermont’s Vaccine Implementation Advisory Committee continues to define the next phase of COVID-19 vaccination prioritization and plans to use age groupings, starting with Vermonters 75+, then 70+, and 65+ as their criterium. Vermonters with specific high-risk conditions will also be prioritized in the next phase. Secretary Mike Smith announced the State will release a full plan that includes the specific high-risk conditions eligible for the vaccine on Friday, January 15th.  For the latest presentation from the VT Vaccine Advisory Group click here. Last Friday, the State of Vermont released a request for proposal (RFP) asking both private and public parties to submit either an all-encompassing, state wide vaccination operational plan or a regional plan to better facilitate mass COVID-19 vaccination services across the State. Chris Finley, Immunization Program Director at Vermont Department of Health, clarified that individual practices that want to set-up their own COVID-19 vaccine clinic still need to enroll and complete the required CDC forms through Vermont’s Immunization Program. Click to read VMS detailed notes from the Jan. 12, 2021 Governor's press conference


Recent COVID-19 Guidance and Resources:

VMS Weekly Zoom with Commissioner of Health, Thursdays at 12:30 pm


Gov. Scott Highlights Health Care Affordability as Key Priority in 2021

Last week marked the beginning of the 2021 legislative session, which due to COVID-19, is expected to be held mostly remotely. Governor Scott took advantage of the digital platform to deliver his 2021 inaugural address last Thursday evening to a broader television audience and pointed out that despite the hardship brought on by the virus, there are also key opportunities for our State. Stabilizing our health care system is an overarching goal of the Administration, with health care affordability named as a critical facet. Vermonters spent far less on health care services last year and therefore the Governor has asked the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) to review health insurance premiums and rates for 2020 and determine where rebates are appropriate. He suggested capping annual insurance increases and continuing the move away from paying fee-for-service (quantity) to more value-based care (quality), while prioritizing the prevention aspirations that are part of Vermont's All Payer Model. He will be seeking mental health improvements as well and a renewed focus on drug prevention and treatment programs. His first priority remains combatting the COVID-19 virus and rolling out an effective vaccination program, while seeking economic recovery. Next week, lofty goals will be replaced by more concrete proposals, as the Governor will deliver his FY22 Governor's Recommended Budget and the debate will begin between the legislature and the Governor on what Vermont should invest in now. 


HHS Extends Public Health Emergency to April 21, 2021

According to the AMA, HHS Secretary Azar has extended the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration effective Jan. 21, 2021 for an additional 90 days. This means that the telehealth and other waivers and flexibilities implemented during the PHE will remain in effect until at least April 21, 2021. In addition, as reported on in last week’s Rounds, Congress’ Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, included provisions that offset most of the 10.2% downward budget neutrality adjustment scheduled to take effect in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule as of Jan. 1, 2021. CMS’s revised payment rates are available in the Downloads section of the CY 2021 Physician Fee Schedule final rule (CMS-1734-F) webpage.

Commissioner Call Update VMS weekly calls with Vermont Department of Health Commissioner, Mark Levine, M.D. are held each Thursday from 12:30-1:00 p.m. on ZOOM - click below for the virtual meeting address that will remain constant each week. 

Once a month, VMS will feature a guest speaker during this call time, as the Commissioner has a conflict. The speaker will discuss clinical protocols and best practices during the State of Emergency.

Join Zoom Meeting -https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86726253105?pwd=VkVuNTJ1ZFQ2R3diSVdqdlJ2ZG4yQT09

Meeting ID: 867 2625 3105 / Password: 540684

Dial In: 1 646 876 9923 / Meeting ID: 867 2625 3105 / Password: 540684


COVID-19 Vaccines - SL Modifier is Not Allowed

In the Vermont Medicaid Banner for January 8, 2021 they clarify that Vermont Medicaid does not allow the SL modifier for the COVID-19 vaccines. The nuance between the Vermont Child Vaccine Program (VCVP) & COVID-19 vaccines was key in the State of Vermont decision. In VCVP, the State purchases vaccines and provides them to providers and as such, the SL modifier is required. However, the COVID-19 vaccine is not purchased by the State at this point in time as the supply is provided to the State by the Federal government.


DVHA Seeks Comments on Proposed Medicaid Next Generation ACO Program Rule

The Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) recently released a call for comments on proposed Vermont Medicaid Next Generation (VMNG) ACO updates, including the PMPM rates for CY 2021. DVHA is entering the fifth year of the Next Generation ACO and the proposed rule includes these updates: 

  1. The value-based component of the program will be modified to include both a Value-Based Incentive Fund (as in previous years) and an additional Year-End Quality Adjustment to link ACO quality performance to financial accountability.
  2. The risk corridors will decrease for both the Traditional Attribution Cohort (from+4% to+2%) and the Expanded Attribution Cohort (from an asymmetrical risk corridor with 2% upside and 1% downside risk to a symmetrical risk corridor of+1%).
  3. Additional COVID-19 provisions will be made to the payment provisions of the contract to align with Medicare’s approaches for their 2021 ACO programs.

These rates and changes are effective January 1, 2021, but the comment period is open until February 1, 2021. Please send your comments to Jill Sudhoff-Guerin at jsudhoffguerin@vtmd.org by January 28, 2021.

      Spotlight on VMS Member Benefits: Say What? Your Practice Needs Interpretation Services?

      According to 2010 data, 64 languages are spoken in Vermont. Do you need an easy-to-use, affordable tool to help you communicate with your patients? All VMS members have access to CyraCom's leading phone and video interpretation solutions at a special rate. Whether in-person or via phone, video, mobile app, or written text, CyraCom bridges communication gaps for healthcare organizations that need rapid access to language assistance. CyraCom's app supports hundreds of languages and operates 24/7. Take advantage of our negotiated savings and get started today by clicking here.


      Do You Want to Be In the Room Where It Happens? 

      Are you passionate about a current health policy issue? Don't forget you are in the "Room where it happens:" the exam room! Your medical expertise makes you uniquely qualified to become a health advocate and to help lead evidence-based health care policy change. This February, VMS will host four weeks of virtual advocacy actions on each Thursday of the month as part of VMS Advocacy Month. Join us, as your voice is critical to improving care for Vermonters, Vermont’s health care system and the practice environment. Advocacy actions include:

      • Feb. 4th- Join the Vermont House and Senate in recognizing the dedication of Vermont’s health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • Feb.11th- Participate in an Advocacy training with legislative leaders and physician advocacy experts. Register here
      • Feb. 18th- Register for our Race and Health Equity webinar for screening tools that promote anti-racism.
      • Feb. 25th-  Engage in our Town Hall discussion with our invited Congressional delegation. 

       For more information and resources for VMS Advocacy Month click here.

      What a COVID Vaccine Will Mean for Vermont Businesses?

      Weds., January 13, 2021 from 9-10am

      Join Betsy Bishop, President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, for this free webinar this week. Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Dept. of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak will discuss the impact a COVID-19 vaccine will have on Vermont’s businesses and workforce and share their predictions for the year ahead. Register here.


      Vermont Medical Society

      134 Main Street

      Montpelier, VT 05602

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