VMS Celebrates Our Members on National Doctors' Day!
This year, like every year, VMS thanks and celebrates you for your compassion and dedication to the health and well-being of Vermonters. However this year, unlike every year, you have worked through a global pandemic and have had to face unrelenting challenges, unimaginable heartbreak and so much unknown.
Thank you is not enough, the gratitude we feel cannot be expressed by words. On this National Doctors’ Day please know how much we appreciate you and all that you have sacrificed. May this year ahead bring healing and hope.
Vermont Meets 200K Vaccinated Threshold, Updated Health Care Worker and Patient Testing Guidelines Released
Today, Mike Smith, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services, announced Vermont had reached its projected goal of having roughly 200,000 Vermonters receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March. The Scott Administration continues to use the age-banding methodology to open up COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, with two additions announced in the press conference today:
- Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, March 31st, caregivers for children who have high risk health conditions but are too young to be vaccinated will be able to register through the state registration system;
- Starting on Thursday, April 1st, any Vermonter in the BIPOC community aged 16 and older will be eligible to register for their COVID vaccine. Dr. Levine said this was a data-driven decision, as currently Vermont's BIPOC COVID-19 vaccination rates lag behind their non-Hispanic white counterparts, at 22% vs. 35%. Secretary Smith stated that incarcerated BIPOC individuals will also be eligible Thursday and with the current age-banding process all inmates should have received a first dose by April 19th and be fully vaccinated by May 13th.
The Vermont Department of Health today also released updated inpatient and outpatient testing guidance for staff – eliminating a requirement that health care providers be routinely tested for COVID-19 – and changing pre-procedure testing guidance for patients. The State also provided updated visitor guidance that will allow anyone fully vaccinated to visit patients in hospitals and health clinics. Individual hospitals can maintain more stringent visitation protocols. Click here for the VDH Inpatient and Outpatient COVID-19 Guidance and click here for the COVID-19 Hospital Visitor Guidance.
As a reminder, 1A eligible individuals – including health care personnel - can now call the Vermont Department of Health Call Center at (802) 863-7240 get screened for eligibility for a vaccination appointment at any of the sites available on the State’s scheduling system (rather than needing a code from their local hospital). No passcode is needed at Kinney Drugs, CVS or Walgreens.
Vermont Senate Prepares to Receive House-Approved FY22 Budget
The Vermont House has passed H.439, the FY22 Budget, which as reported in the mid-session 2021 VMS Legislative Bulletin, includes approximately $2.2 million in state funding for the nursing and primary care physician scholarship programs for FY22 and FY23. The bill also includes funding for:
- Health Equity Training Support - $200,000
- Recovery Center increases - $300,000
- DMH Mobile Crisis Units - $1.2 million
- 2% Rate Increase for Designated Agency Providers - $5 million
Click here to read a summary of the House-passed FY22 Budget, which includes House spending priorities for the $650 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars Vermont received from the latest federal COVID relief bill.
In other legislative actions, Governor Scott signed S.117, the health care regulatory flexibilities extension bill, into law on Monday, March 29th. With an immediate effective date, the bill makes permanent requirements for coverage of health care services delivered by audio-only telephone and patient consent is now required for audio-only telehealth services. VMS has a sample available here.
Congress Takes Action to Extend Moratorium on Medicare Sequester
Late last week, the Senate passed an agreement to extend a 2 percent Medicare sequester moratorium scheduled to expire on April 1. This legislation would extend the moratorium through December 31, 2021 and will need to be reconciled with a House-passed extension when Congress returns from their two-week Easter recess on April 13th. House-passed legislation would have both extended the moratorium through the end of the pandemic and eliminated an additional 4 percent Medicare sequester scheduled to take effect on January 1. The House is expected to pass the Senate language when it returns from its recess. The American Medical Association reports that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is expected to hold off on processing April claims until the extension has been passed to avoid making reduced payments. Physician and other stakeholder groups affected by the upcoming 4% sequester scheduled for January 1 expect legislation to be considered later in the year to waive those cuts.
Recent COVID-19 Guidance and Resources:
VMS Weekly Zoom with Commissioner of Health, Thursdays at 12:30 pm
VMS Offers Facilitated Well-Being Gatherings to Vermont Practices
Supported by grant funding from the Physician Foundation, VMS is able to offer clinician well-being gatherings at Vermont practices this Spring. Gatherings can be hosted by individual practices or groups of practices that want to offer their clinical staff peer support during this stressful time. At the session, Lumunoswellbeing facilitators will provide an interactive experience of peer support; share ideas and resources for how groups of clinicians, practices, health systems or individuals can create a peer support structure moving forward; and provide additional tools and resources for clinician well-being. Program content and length can be tailored to your practice’s needs. For more information, see program flyer or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.