April 13, 2021


Join VMS This Week! for the VMS April 2021 Webinar: Vermont Health Care Reform with OneCare VT

Please join us on Thursday, April 15, 2021 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm for our VMS April webinar on "Vermont Health Care Reform." Join webinar hosts Vicki Loner, CEO, OneCare Vermont and Dr. Norman Ward, CMO, OneCare Vermont. They will discuss how the public health emergency has further exposed the shortcomings of the current fee-for-service payment structures and explore the opportunities to expand value-based-payments in Vermont's health care systems. OneCare Vermont will review some of the lessons learned, describe the actions its providers implemented, and discuss how we can use our current federal demonstration to advance the current payment and delivery system efforts. 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.


Mark Levine: “'Pause' on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Administration in Vermont Reasonable"

Vermont has paused administration of Johnson & Johnson COVID 19 vaccine through Friday, impacting 4,000 Vermonters who were scheduled for vaccination. At the Scott Administration’s press conference on Tuesday, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services Mike Smith explained that those individuals will be contacted by the State and will be offered to reschedule with a different vaccine – or rescheduled for Johnson & Johnson once administration resumes. Commissioner of Health Mark Levine, MD, stated that the pause is reasonable to give time for the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to review the six reports of blood clots in women age 16-48.  Dr. Levine emphasized that these clots are extremely rare, occurred between days 6-13 post-vaccination and were found in the brain (leading to severe headache) and abdomen. Symptoms are less likely to match more common blood clots found in the legs or lungs.  In addition, they are not treated with heparin, like more common blood clots. He explained that one of the main reasons for the pause is to give time for more information on signs, symptoms and treatment to be shared with medical professionals. The Department of Health is planning to release a Health Alert with more details by the end of the day today. Governor Scott stated they only expect the pause to last days, not weeks, and Vermont has not discarded any of the existing J&J doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a Health Alert Network update addressing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this afternoon.   


Action Alert: Please Urge the Senate Health and Welfare Committee to Fund the Future of Primary Care 

This week, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee is preparing their FY22 Budget Memo making specific health care focused budget recommendations for the Senate Appropriations Committee. With flush coffers from federal American Rescue Plan stimulus funds, the Committees are considering how to best invest additional dollars into Vermont's future. Please urge the Senate Health and Welfare Committee to prioritize a portion of the State's one-time, federal funds for primary care:

  • Payments: Increase the Medicaid RBRVS Fee Schedule to bring primary care codes to 105% of Medicare;
  • Sustainability: Dedicate ARPA funds for primary care Innovation grants that can be used to fund practice transformation to alleviate administrative burden, add mental health services and move towards value-based care; 
  • Workforce: Support on-going additional investment into the new primary care scholarship program in H.439

Please contact the Committee members TODAY: vlyons@leg.state.vt.us; chooker@leg.state.vt.us; JTerenzini@leg.state.vt.us; acummings@leg.state.vt.us; rhardy@leg.state.vt.us; nmarvel@leg.state.vt.us

As part of this effort the VMS is launching the "Let's Make Primary Care a Vermont Priority" campaign. Will you share your story of why NOW is a critical time for Vermont to invest in the sustainability of primary care? Please contact Jill at jsudhoffguerin@vtmd.org for more information. 


Recent COVID-19 Guidance and Resources:

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


Future Planning for COVID-19 Vaccine at Vermont Primary Care Offices

The Vermont Department of Health anticipates that Primary Care Offices can expect to see the option to carry COVID-19 vaccine for use in their patient population by the end of Summer, 2021. By this time, there will be less focus on mass vaccination events, centralized registration, and the goal of using every dose every week. We anticipate that Pfizer shipment sizes will be reduced, and updated manufacture data or new vaccine presentations may increase the vaccine shelf life and make management less challenging. The Immunization Program will work with Primary Care Offices through this process and support you in managing this new vaccine. In the coming weeks, the Immunization Program will schedule an "All Provider Call." to be held by the end of May. During this session the program will present information on providing COVID-19 vaccine to all enrolled PCP offices who want it and be available to answer questions. 


AMA Survey Shows COVID-19 Did Not Reduce Prior Authorizations

As COVID-19 cases soared across the nation in late 2020, new survey results issued last week by the American Medical Association (AMA) show that health plans continued to impose prior authorization policies on physicians that delayed access to necessary care and sometimes resulted in serious harm to patients. According to the AMA survey, almost 70% of 1,000 practicing physicians surveyed in Dec. 2020 reported that health insurers had either reverted to past prior authorization policies or never relaxed these policies in the first place. More than nine in 10 physicians (94%) reported care delays while waiting for health insurers to authorize necessary care, and nearly four in five physicians (79%) said patients abandoned treatment due to authorization struggles with health insurers.

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


Scholarships for UVM Pain Management Conference for Healthcare Providers Caring for the Underserved

The Alliance to Advance Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management (AACIPM) is partnering with the Integrative Medicine for the Underserved (IM4US) and the University of Vermont Integrative Health to provide scholarships for healthcare clinicians who provide care for the underserved to attend the the UVM Integrative Pain Management Conference. Please click here to learn more. 


UVMMC Seeks Primary Care Practice for Opioid Prescribing Study

The Office of Primary Care at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont is inviting Northern New England Primary Care practices to participate in a research study that supports their quality improvement projects on better opioid prescribing and chronic pain management. Stipend of $10,000 for each practice. Starts April 2022 if approved. Contact: Principal Investigator Connie van Eeghen Dr.P.H. MHSA at cvaneegh@med.uvm.edu


CMS Issues Temporary Claims Hold

In anticipation of possible Congressional action to extend the 2% sequester reduction suspension, CMS instructed all Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold all claims with dates of service on or after 4/1/2021. The intention is that this claims hold will only be implemented for a short period and should not interrupt Medicare providers’ cash flow. This action is being implemented to minimize the volume of claims the MACs must reprocess if Congress extends the suspension; the MACs will automatically reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied if necessary.


Repayment of COVID-19 Accelerated and Advance Payments Began March 30, 2021

CMS issued information about repayment of COVID-19 accelerated and advance payments. If you requested these payments, learn how and when CMS will recoup them:

  • Identify payments we recovered
  • Prepare your billing staff

More Information:

        April 2021 is National Donate Life Month

        Click here to learn more


        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. Program content and length can be tailored to your practice’s needs. For more information, see program flyer or contact jbarnard@vtmd.org.  

        COVID Support VT Mental Health Wellness Workshops Include Youth-Focused Discussion Groups

        Is the COVID-19 pandemic stressing you out? Join COVID Support VT to learn how others are coping and tips and tricks to feel better! COVID Support Vermont's "Healthy Vermonters Workshops" offer a wide spectrum of classes and discussions for young and old Vermonters alike who may be struggling to find balance during the pandemic. Click here for more information. 

        April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

        Friday, April 29th 8:00 am -12:15pm

        Dr. James Metz and Dr. Lewis First invite you to register for the UVM “Recognizing and Responding to Child Maltreatment - Promoting Child Abuse Awareness in VT (Virtual Conference)."  This conference will help you to recognize sentinel injuries, sexual abuse and neglect. Participants will learn about the mental health implications of trauma and abuse and will learn strategies for effective reporting. Click here to register

        VPQHC Expands Health Equity Training Offerings Due to High Demand

        The Vermont Program for Quality Health Care (VPQHC) has expanded the free health equity training offerings that qualify health care professionals 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 is currently waitlisted through May. Click here to learn more. 

        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.


        Vermont Medical Society

        134 Main Street

        Montpelier, VT 05602

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