February 23, 2021


This Week's VMS Advocacy Month Action: Congressional COVID-19 Town Hall

Please join us this Thursday, February 25, 2020 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm for our VMS Town Hall discussion with invited Congressional delegates to discuss COVID-19 relief, the Biden Administration's COVID vaccine plan and other federal health care policy initiatives. The VMS has invited Rep. Peter Welch, Senator Leahy and Senator Sanders to this virtual Town Hall discussion on Thursday February 25th during our regularly scheduled Commissioner Call. Please participate in this interactive panel where our Congressional delegation will answer your questions on federal health policy and more. No registration required. 

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

This Town Hall is the fourth action in the VMS' 2021 Advocacy Month and we want to thank everyone who was able to participate in our Race and Health Equity webinar with Dr. Becca Bell last week. Click here for the recording and click here for the 2021 VMS Advocacy Toolkit for simple tools to help you craft cogent, effective communications and go here to see all of the VMS 2021 Advocacy Month actions. 


Action Alert: Tell Senators to Extend Coverage for Audio-Only Health Services Today!

Vermont lawmakers are working as fast as they can to advance their priority policies before they break for "Town Meeting" next week. When they return, they have one more week before the crossover deadline, which requires legislation to have passed out of the first chamber's policy committees by March 12th in order to continue to move this legislative session. One VMS priority to pass is the COVID-19 emergency flexibilities bill, legislation to extend regulatory flexibilities that are set to end March 31, 2021, being considered by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week. The current proposal would extend most regulatory flexibilities, such as those licensing out-of-state health care professionals, until March 31, 2022. As part of this bill the Senate Health and Welfare Committee will be hearing tomorrow from Vermont payers and clinicians on whether to extend insurance coverage for audio-only telehealth services. We want them to hear from our members on this issue! Thanks to advocacy from many VMS members, the House Health Care Committee recommended covering all medically necessary, clinically appropriate health care services through audio-only telehealth at the same reimbursement rate as in-person services, but the Senate Health and Welfare Committee is voting on whether to include this recommendation this week. Please reach out to members of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee today! They need to continue to hear how coverage of audio-only services helps provide access to care for your patients. 

Members of the Committee can be reached at: VLyons@leg.state.vt.usrhardy@leg.state.vt.usacummings@leg.state.vt.us


Other VMS Policy Priorities being considered this week include: 

  • S.30, a bill to prohibit the possession of firearms in hospitals is being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Please let this Committee know firearms do not belong in health care settings! Committee emails: rsears@leg.state.vt.us; pbaruth@leg.state.vt.us; jwhite@leg.state.vt.us; anitka@leg.state.vt.us; jbenning@leg.state.vt.us 
  • COVID-Relief Budget Recommendations, last week the House Health Care Committee put together two budget memos for the House Appropriations Committee making specific health care focused budget recommendations for an emergency COVID-relief bill and the FY22 Budget bill. The recommendations for the emergency bill includes funding for racial disparities data collection, homeless housing programs and mental health supports. The FY22 Budget recommendations include funding for workforce training and continuing to fund the primary care physician scholarship program;
  • S.22, a bill regarding health care practitioners administering stem cell products not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, had a second hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and appears to have support; 
  • S.24, the bill to prohibit the sales of flavored tobacco, has a second hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week, with the focus on including menthol;
  • S.25, a bill making changes to the cannabis commercialization bill that was passed in 2020, is scheduled in two Senate Committees this week;
  • H.210, a bill to create a Vermont State Office of Health Equity and to require Continuing Medical Education focused on cultural competency will be heard in the House Health Care Committee this week. 

Vermont Starts to Loosen Guidelines for Vaccinated

Last week, the Scott Administration announced that starting today, February 23rd, out-of-state travelers can come to VT without quarantine if they can prove they are fully vaccinated. Travelers to Vermont will not be required to quarantine two weeks after receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and the policy applies to both residents and visitors to the state. Today, the Scott Administration announced the first step in lifting multihousehold gathering restrictions. Starting today, anyone fully vaccinated can gather with another household regardless of the other households’ vaccination status. For example, if your parents are fully vaccinated and you are not, you can gather together. The Agency of Human Service (AHS) is working on a memo to clarify the protocols for hospitals, primary care and case managers to identify homebound Vermonters that need to receive vaccination services in their home. The VMS also continues to work with AHS to determine the attestation process for Vermonters with high-risk health conditions (HRHC) who are seeking to register and receive the COVID-19 vaccine. AHS is currently drafting guidance to assist providers in this process, but the understanding is that the patient would self-attest during registration, and the appointment would be scheduled to leave time to verify the HRHC diagnosis automatically via VITL, and some sample number being verified by practices. VMS will continue to update members as this process develops.


Recent COVID-19 Guidance and Resources:

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


DVHA Seeking Three Members for Medicaid Clinical Review Board

The Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) is seeking three new members to participate in the Governor-appointed Clinical Utilization Review Board (CURB). CURB members take part in examining existing medical services, emerging technologies, and relevant evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and make recommendations to the Department regarding coverage and appropriate medical necessity of services in the State's Medicaid programs. Public meetings are held every two months from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month and during the Governor’s ordered State of Emergency meetings are being held remotely. The application process is completed online and can be found at https://governor.vermont.gov/boards-commissions. Additional information about the CURB such as meeting dates, agenda, and minutes can be found at https://dvha.vermont.gov/advisory-boards. Dr. Scott Strenio, Chief Medical Officer for DVHA and the State’s liaison to the Clinical Utilization Review Board can be contacted with additional questions via email at scott.strenio@vermont.gov


VPQHC Launches Health Equity Training Starting in March

The Vermont Program for Quality Health Care (VPQHC) is offering free health equity training for health care clinicians that will qualify for 3 CME credits, entitled, "Structural Competence and Cultural Humility to Address Disparities and Inequities." This training is being provided by Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila, PhD, MSW, MED and will focus on increased awareness of biases, increased knowledge of cultural and linguistic competencies and increased knowledge of the link between racial inequities and health outcomes. This training is being offered on three different dates throughout Spring 2021. Click here to learn more. 

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


Applications Open for Medical Justice in Advocacy Fellowship

The AMA and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine announced the inaugural Medical Justice in Advocacy fellowship aiming to advance equity and remove barriers to optimal health for marginalized people and communities. This collaborative educational initiative is open to eligible physicians and residents with a demonstrated interest in health equity and advocacy. Selected participants will receive a stipend of $15,000 and will be eligible for up to 28 CME credit hours. The deadline to submit applications is March 31, 2021. Learn more.


Changes to ACO Prior Authorization Waiver

For dates of service March 1, 2021 onward, physician-administered drugs (PADs) for Medicaid members will no longer qualify for a waiver of prior authorization for ACO-attributed members. Any claims submitted for PADs that require a PA on or after March 1, 2021 must have an associated prior authorization from DVHA. Prior to this, members attributed to the Vermont Medicaid Next Generation ACO program qualified for a prior authorization waiver for these services. These services no longer qualify for the PA waiver, and providers must now receive prior authorization for PADs that require a PA for all Medicaid members. The list of PADs that require a PA can be found here: https://dvha.vermont.gov/forms-manuals/forms/prior-authorizations-tools-and-criteria/aco-prior-authorizations.


New Information Blocking Rules Take Effect April 5 – Resources Available

New federal “information blocking” rules go into effect on April 5. To help organizations prepare, eight prominent industry groups have pooled their efforts to launch the Information Blocking Resource Center, a free online resource packed with helpful guidelines and documents.  Physician practices might want to start by reviewing American Medical Association resources such as What Is Information Blocking? and How Do I Comply with Info Blocking and Where do I Start? Physicians can experience info blocking when trying to access patient records from other providers, connecting their electronic health record (EHR) systems to local health information exchanges (HIEs), migrating from one EHR to another, and linking their EHRs with a clinical data registry. Patients can also experience info blocking when trying to access their medical records or when sending their records to another provider. Under the new rule, for nearly all electronic health information requests, physicians must respond and release patients’ medical records unless an appropriate exception can be identified and used. Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL) staff are available to talk with providers and health care organizations about both the ONC and CMS rule requirements that take effect this spring. Reach out to Maurine Gilbert at mgilbert@vitl.net


Deadline Today: Vermont Medicaid Seeking Input on How to Improve Medicaid Program

Vermont’s Global Commitment to Health 1115 Demonstration waiver expires at the end of 2021. This is an agreement between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Vermont Medicaid program giving Medicaid flexibility in how it uses federal funds. A new application must be submitted to CMS the by June 30th, 2021. In advance of drafting the renewal request, the Vermont Agency of Human Service (AHS) is holding an open meeting on February 25, 2021 from 2:00 to 3:30pm to hear from stakeholders. The meeting will focus on answering “what would improve Vermont’s Medicaid program related to your/your constituency’s goals?” Proposals should include:

  1. What is the problem you are trying to address?
  2. What is your proposed solution to the problem?
  3. How does this promote: transformation to value-based payment, improved care coordination, promoting public health/prevention or increasing access to care?

More information can be found here and comments can also be submitted in writing to Jill at jsudhoffguerin@vtmd.org by February 23, 2021.


        VMS March 2021 Webinar: Practicing in a Pandemic: A Panel Discussion

        Speakers: Trey Dobson MD, Matthew Prohaska MD, FAAOS, Wendy Davis MD, Katie Marvin MD.

        Please join four Vermont physicians, Thursday March 18th from 12pm-1pm, to discuss their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they have gained new insight and perspective along the way. This panel will bring forth on-the-ground experience and allow for in-depth discussion on relevant topics for frontline providers.

        • Lessons in Leadership & Communication Garnered During the Pandemic: Dr. Dobson discusses how to motivate and inspire staff which results in better outcomes. 
        • Adapting Orthopaedic Care to The COVID World with Dr. Prohaska: Although the medical environment changed due to COVID-19, hips and knees continued to cause pain and dysfunction requiring adaptations at every level, including same day joint replacements.
        • VCHIP & Pediatric Community Perspective: Dr. Davis will discuss the VCHIP collaborative work on disseminating timely information during a pandemic.
        • Primary Care & Telehealth: Dr. Marvin will present a firsthand account of the effect of the pandemic on primary care and the way in which telehealth was utilized during the pandemic.
        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. 

        Teaching the Use of HIT to Support Relationship-Based Care

        March 5, 2021

        The 4th session of "The Patient and the Practitioner in the Age of Technology: Promoting Healing Relationships" virtual series will explore explore some of the innovative methods educators have found to teach practitioners at different stages of their careers to incorporate HIT in support of relationship-based care. Earn 2 AMA approved CME credits. Register here. 

        2021 Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit Goes Virtual

        April 5th-8th 2021

        The Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, the largest and most influential annual conference addressing the opioid and addiction crisis, is taking place online April 5-8. With overdoses increasing at alarming rates, this is a critical year for stakeholders to convene and discuss what is working in prevention and treatment. The virtual conference will feature four days of live education led by multi-disciplinary experts from across the nation. On-Demand access for 60 days will be available for the 75+ Sessions with live Q&A. Register now.

        Special Enrollment Period from Feb. 16-May 14th, 2021

        Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period from February 16 through May 14 2021. During this time, any uninsured Vermonter can sign up for a qualified health plan through Vermont Health Connect. Qualified families can also get financial help paying for coverage. Please call us 1-855-899-9600 to learn more.

        "Perspectives on Connection, Compassion and Belonging"

        Howard Center 4th Annual Conference

        March 30, 2021


        Howard Center’s annual conference is designed for a broad audience, including mental health and healthcare providers, educators, clients and families, representatives of state and local government, law enforcement, the judiciary, and the general public. Click here for more information and to register. 


        Vermont Medical Society

        134 Main Street

        Montpelier, VT 05602

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