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.us; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
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: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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 email@example.com
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.