FY22 Budget Goes to the Senate this Week and VMS Legislative Update
Adjournment of the 2021 legislative session is coming more clearly into view, as the Senate Appropriations Committee voted out their version of the State Fiscal Year 2022 Budget yesterday and last week policy Committees took final action on a number of outstanding bills. This week, the FY22 Budget will be debated on the Senate floor, while committees scramble to come to final consensus on legislative proposals they hope to get passed before the last day of the session, which is projected for May 22nd. Here is an update on a number of VMS priority bills:
Primary care in the Senate Appropriations' FY22 Budget: the bill as passed the Committee includes funding for a renamed "Medical Student Incentive Scholarship Program." The scholarship program will award 10 students annually with a scholarship equivalent to one year of in-state tuition at the UVM Larner College of Medicine in exchange for a year of delivering primary care in a rural area of the State. VMS was also strongly advocating for an increase in Medicaid rates for primary care physicians, however the Senate has not included that funding. VMS will continue advocacy for Medicaid payment increases in future budgets.
Telehealth Licensure Study: H.104, creates a work group to examine methods of streamlining licensure for providing telehealth services across state lines and is on the Senate calendar for debate this week.
Childcare Financing bill: H.171, is acomprehensive childcare investment bill that has been years in the making, with increases to childcare financial assistance, modernizing of the Bright Futures Information System, and scholarships and loan repayment programs for current and potential early childhood providers. The bill and the funding in the FY22 Budget head to the Senate floor for approval this week.
Office of Health Equity bill: H.210, legislation aimed at addressing disparities in the health status of Vermonters through the establishment of an Office of Health Equity passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week and goes before the full Senate this week.
Dr. Dynasaur expansion for migrant families: H.430, this bill, which would expand Medicaid coverage to all income-eligible children and pregnant women who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid except for their immigration status, passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week and will be debated on the Senate floor this week.
Forensic Mental Health System bill: S.3, after passing the Senate in early March, this bill has been through extensive review in the House and is poised to pass the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon. Thank you to VMS President, Simha Ravven, M.D., for testifying and providing her expertise in forensic mental health to improve the iterations of the bill up to now. After it passes the Committee, it will go to the full House for approval.
Stem Cell Consent bill: S.22, a bill aimed at ensuring patients have accurate information regarding risks and FDA-approval status of stem cells administered outside of clinical trials is scheduled for discussion in the House Health Care Committee this week.
Cannabis Commission bill: S.25, a bill making modifications to Vermont’s tax and regulate commercial sales of recreational marijuana, including additional advertising restrictions, has passed the Senate and is scheduled for an initial hearing in the House Government Operations Committee today.
Health Reform bill; S.120, a Senate Health and Welfare Committee health reform bill will combine elements of a health care affordability study (S.120), and elements ofS.132, a health reform bill, with a major goal of hearing from Vermonters about making health care more affordable. Funding for this bill is included in the Senate version of the FY22 Budget and it is scheduled for final approval in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week.
PPP tax: H.315, according to VTDigger, after overwhelming backlash from the State's beleaguered business community, the Vermont Senate is likely to repeal the freshly passed state income tax on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for tax year 2021. The legislature had included a provision that would treat these relief funds as taxable income in a recent COVID relief bill, despite the federal intent that the relief monies be tax exempt. The Vermont Medical Society signed onto a Lake Champlain Chamber letter urging tax forgiveness for PPP loans for every business sector that has struggled to survive throughout the pandemic. The Senate Finance Committee has a hearing scheduled on this issue this afternoon.
__________________________________________________________________________Youth Waiting Times in Emergency Departments
On Thursday of last week, the House Health Care Committee spent the morning hearing from pediatricians, emergency department physicians, hospitals, the Department of Mental Health and parents on the crisis of Vermont youth waiting in Emergency Departments for days to weeks for transfer for mental health services. The clear consensus for all was that the Emergency Department was not a place for children to be isolated and waiting. It remains to be seen what action will be taken, but the first important steps of hearing the issue and identifying the crisis will hopefully move swiftly to tangible action.
Scott Administration Says Vermont Will Move to Step 2 of the Vermont Forward Plan
Scott announced today that with COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations down
across the State of Vermont and having met the requisite benchmarks of 50 to 60
percent of Vermonters having received at least their first dose of the COVID-19
vaccine, Vermont is poised to move to "Step 2" of the Vermont
Forward Plan. He said the State will release additional information on this
next phase of Vermont's reopening this Friday. The State has resumed the use of
the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine and is targeting specific areas of
Vermont to hold pop-up, drive-thru clinics. Vermont had made significant
progress on vaccination efforts, ranking 2nd in the nation in vaccine
administration and having 54% of the BIPOC population either receiving or
registered for their vaccine. Last Friday, the Scott Administration released
new childcare and day camp guidance and new overnight camp
guidance. Revised sections of state guidance for childcare and day camps (out of school
time) will become effective May 1, 2021 and include:
- Health Screenings and Travel
- Return to Work/Care Post-Vaccine
- Drop off/Pick Up
- Hand Hygiene
- Physical Distancing and Pods
Guidance for overnight camps will become effective June 1, 2021 and includes: prearrival protocols,evidence of a negative test 72-hours prior to arrival, universal masking (following VT Forward protocol), and limits in off-campus activity.
COVID-19 Health Guidance for Child Care and Out-of-School-Time Care
Guidance on Overnight Summer Camp Operations
Recent COVID-19 Guidance and Resources:
VMS Weekly Zoom with Commissioner of Health, Thursdays at 12:30 pm
Free Information Blocking Event for State Medical Society Members - April 28th
The Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) is holding an
event for state medical society members April 28th from 10 am ET to 3:45 pm ET
entitled “Ready, Set, Comply: Meeting the Information Blocking Challenge.” The
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)
extended the Information Blocking compliance date to April 5, but has
begun enforcement activity. WEDI, a non-profit multi-stakeholder Health IT
organization, has developed a program to assist physician practices and others
understand the requirements and develop an effective compliance plan.
This program is being offered at no cost in an effort to assist practices meet
this regulatory challenge. To learn more about the event and register, go here. To
learn more about WEDI, go here