April 27, 2021


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

Governor 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
  • Transportation 
  • Drop off/Pick Up 
  • Hand Hygiene 
  • Masks 
  • Cleaning 
  • Physical Distancing and Pods
  • Volunteers/Visitors

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

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


HHS Clarifies Access to Free COVID-19 Vaccines

In response to concerns of access barriers some immigrants are facing regarding documentation requests prior to receiving COVID-19 vaccination, HRSA developed two fact sheets to help both patients and clinicians better understand their rights and responsibilities regarding access to COVID-19 vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines are free to all individuals living in the United States. The facts sheets note that if practices are seeking reimbursement from the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program, providers are required to request a Social Security Number and, if unavailable, a driver’s license/state ID number, solely to check if the patient has other health insurance. Patients are NOT required to provide this information. Providers will still be reimbursed for eligible claims if they attest that they asked for this information, but it was not made available.


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


          Please Join us for the VMS May 2021 Webinar: What You Have Missed in Compliance!

          Please join us on Thursday, May 20, 2021 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm for our VMS May webinar "What You Have Missed in Compliance!" with presenters Anne Cramer and Shireen Hart. After a year of enormous disruption and change, this program will educate you on areas of critical federal and state regulatory changes for physician practices in 2021, including:

          • New informed consent requirements for audio-only telehealth
          • New information blocking rules
          • Vaccine mandates
          • Employment law changes

          Bring your questions for top health care law experts! Click here to register. 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.

          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.  

          Best Practice: Equitable Health Care

          April 29th, 1:00 - 3:00 PM

          Register today!

          Join Northern Vermont AHEC for the fourth session of a 5-part virtual series, Quality Care is Equitable Care: The Case for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Health Caretargeting Vermont health care practitioners and partners. To register for Session 4 and/or learn more about each monthly activity click here. 

          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 Again!

          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. Register here.

          Special Enrollment Period Now Until August 15th, 2021

          Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Vermont Health Connect has opened a Special Enrollment Period through August 15, 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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