July 20, 2021


Deadline for VMS Leadership Award Nominations & Resolutions July 30th!

Although COVID has been incredibly challenging for the medical community in Vermont, each and every one of you have colleagues who have gone above and beyond to serve their patients and communities in 2021. Who do you know that should receive an award for their outstanding leadership throughout the pandemic? 

The Vermont Medical Society will be accepting nominations for its Annual Leadership Awards until July 30, 2021. To view the award categories and criteria click here. VMS is also looking for your input on 2021 Policy Resolutions to be considered by the membership at the VMS Annual Business Meeting on November 6th. Submit your resolution idea here.

The VMS, in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, Vermont Academy of Family Physicians and the Vermont Psychiatric Association will host the 2021 VMS Annual & Collaborative Meeting on November 5 and 6th, 2021 at the Topnotch Resort in Stowe, VT!  This year's event has been streamlined and features both in-person and virtual options to participate. For more details on the meeting click here. Make sure to save the date and book your room today with the VMS room block. Call Topnotch at 1.800.451.8686. 


Vermont Primary Care Medical Student Scholarship Launches – Open for Applications

Last week, the Larner College of Medicine announced the inaugural offering of the VT AHEC Scholars Medical Student Incentive Scholarship for Larner College of Medicine third-year (Class of 2023) and fourth-year (Class of 2022) medical students who are pursuing primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, or psychiatry, and who are committed to future practice in rural Vermont.  Up to 10 scholarships worth up to $40,000 towards tuition will be available this year.  VMS advocated over the past two years for the legislature to fund this new scholarship program to strengthen the primary care workforce pipeline in rural Vermont and is thrilled to see the program launch. The Office of Primary Care and AHEC will host an information session, including opportunities for Q & A, on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 from 12:00 p.m. to 1 p.m. via Zoom at: https://uvmcom.zoom.us/j/96367835176.

Applications must be received by July 30, 2021 and more information can be found here.


Green Mountain Care Board Job Posting Now Available – Clinicians Encouraged to Apply

The job posting for an upcoming vacancy on the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) is now live and is available hereApplications are due by August 13, 2021. The vacancy will begin in September as member Maureen Usifer is not seeking reappointment. The GMCB oversees and evaluates the development, implementation, and effectiveness of health care payment and delivery system reforms designed to control the rate of growth in health care costs and maintain health care quality and access in Vermont. The Vermont Medical Society strongly supports a clinician serving on the GMCB and encourages any interested health care professional to apply. The Governor makes appointments to the GMCB from a list of qualified candidates submitted to him by the GMCB Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee consists of nine members, appointed by the Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tempore, Committee on Committees, and Governor. VMS Members can contact Jessa Barnard at jbarnard@vtmd.org to discuss the position.


2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule Released – Changes to Payment Rates, Telehealth

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the proposed rule for the 2022 Medicare physician fee schedule. It is open for comment until September 13, 2021. AMA and VMS staff continue to analyze the full proposal. Notably, the 2022 Medicare conversion factor would be reduced by approximately 3.89% from $34.8931 to $33.5848. This is largely a result of the expiration of a 3.75% increase to the conversion factor at the end of calendar year 2021, as averted for 2021 by Congressional action. The AMA will strongly advocate that Congress avert this significant cut and extend the 3.75% increase for 2022. Regarding telehealth access, CMS is proposing to retain a number of services added to the Medicare telehealth services list on a temporary basis through the end of December 31, 2023, so that there is a path to evaluate whether the services should be permanently added to the telehealth list following the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS also proposes to implement recently enacted legislation that removes certain statutory restrictions to allow patients in any geographic location and in their homes access to telehealth services for diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of mental health disorders and proposes to allow payment to eligible practitioners when they provide certain mental and behavioral health services to patients via audio-only telephone calls from their homes.  For other audio-only services, CMS proposes to continue with their plan to end reimbursement for telephone codes 99441, 99442 and 99443 after the federal public health emergency ends but to permanently adopt coding and payment for HCPCS codes G2252 (extended virtual check in for 11–20 minutes of medical discussion) and reimburse at the same level as CPT 99442.  The rule also proposes a number of other regulatory changes in areas including electronic prescribing of controlled substances for Medicare Part D, telehealth services offered by FQHCs and to the Medicare Shared Savings ACO program.


AMA Expresses Concern About OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

On June 21, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the COVID-19 health care emergency temporary standard (ETS) in the Federal Register. This Interim Final Rule (IFR) went into effect the day it was published. In a recent letter (PDF), the AMA expressed serious concern that the lack of notice and short comment time frame, comments are due Aug. 20, do not give stakeholders enough time to review the IFR and provide meaningful input to OSHA. The letter also raised concerns that the proposed new standards could be duplicative of existing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, causing confusion among physicians who have already made significant investments in telehealth technology and personal protective equipment for themselves and their staff. The AMA will submit additional comments before Aug. 20 deadline.  For more information about the OSHA rule and requirements, see the June 22nd Update on the VMS COVID-19 Resource Page.  


Vermont Medicaid Proposes Expanded Blood Pressure Monitor Coverage

Effective August 6, 2021, Vermont Medicaid (DVHA) is expanding hypertension diagnosis categories for beneficiaries to obtain a blood pressure monitor to include essential hypertension, benign hypertension, nonspecific hypertension, elevated blood pressure without the diagnosis of hypertension, hypertensive heart disease without heart failure, and pregnancy-related hypertension. Close monitoring of a beneficiary’s blood pressure will allow faster medical intervention and may reduce medications, doctor visits, and emergency department visits. Also effective August 6, 2021, DVHA will only cover the purchase of digital cuffs and no longer allow purchase of the manual sphygmomanometer/blood pressure apparatus with cuff and stethoscope. The public comment period on this proposed rule change runs from July 6, 2021 through August 5, 2021. Please send any comments or questions to Jill Sudhoff Guerin at jsudhoffguerin@vtmd.org.


CMS Releases Surprise Medical Billing Interim Final Rule

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury (Tri-Agencies), along with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released an interim final rule with comment period (IFR) entitled the Requirements Related to Surprise Billing: Part I (PDF) implementing many of the provisions of the No Surprises Act (NSA) signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (PDF) COVID-19 relief bill. The NSA addresses surprise medical billing at the federal level by holding patients harmless from the costs of out-of-network care in certain situations and creating an independent dispute resolution process for determining provider payments.

Read more from the AMA here and view the CMS’ interim final rule fact sheet here.


Drug Utilization Review Board is Currently Seeking Board Members

The Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) manages  the publicly-funded benefit programs for the State of Vermont including the pharmacy benefit programs and oversees the activities of the DUR Board. The DURB is composed of prescribers and pharmacists that meet approximately every six weeks with a total of seven meetings per year. Materials for the meeting are sent via email ahead of time to allow DUR Board members to review before the meeting. The agenda typically consists of:

  • Drug utilization review and analyses
  • Review of new drugs, new indications and dosage forms
  • Therapeutic class review including recently published treatment guidelines and best practices that may influence clinical criteria
  • Safety information
  • Drug information pertinent to managing the drug benefit programs of DVHA

You can find the DURB description, meeting schedule and location, meeting agenda’s, meeting minutes, current members, and contact information on their website at Drug Utilization Review Board | Department of Vermont Health Access

Please reach out to Lisa Hurteau if interested: Lisa.Hurteau@Vermont.gov.


HHS Opens Provider Relief Fund Reporting Portal

The Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Reporting Portal is now open for providers who need to report on the use of funds in Reporting Period 1. All recipients of PRF payments must comply with the reporting requirements described in the Terms and Conditions. Providers who received funds between April 10, 2020 and June 30, 2020 are required to report during Reporting Period 1 and have until September 30, 2021 to submit their information via the Portal. HRSA is committed to supporting the providers who have received PRF payments in completing their reporting requirements successfully.

Providers can review the updated Reporting Requirements Notice (June 11) to enter the PRF Reporting Portal. Portal registration is the first required step (if not already completed).


New Summer Schedule! Commissioner Call Update | VMS calls with Vermont Department of Health Commissioner, Mark Levine, M.D. will be held on specific Thursdays from 12:30-1:00 p.m. throughout the summer. These calls are on ZOOM - click below for the virtual meeting address that will remain constant each week.

Summer dates will be: THIS THURSDAY - July 22nd; August 5 & 19th; September 2 & 16th.  
Click here for an online schedule.

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

24th Women’s Health and Cancer Conference: Friday, October 1, 2021 – Save the date: the UVM Cancer Center will once again bring together health care professionals, patients, survivors, caregivers and the general public for this event which is aimed at empowering and supporting individuals and communities with knowledge about cancer prevention, detection, treatment and survivorship. Registration will be available in June. For more information click here. 

Sponsored jointly bythe Mayo Clinic,
Stanford University and the American Medical Association

American Conference
on Physician Health
October 7- 9, 2021

Achieving the quadruple aim: Resilient systems in times of crisis.” Joint scientific conference that promotes scientific research and discourse on health system infrastructure, and the actionable steps organizations like yours can take to improve physician well-being.

  • Registration rates: Available through Thursday, Sept. 23.
  • To register for conference and view agenda, visit the ACPH 2021 homepage.

AMA Steps Forward Webinar Series

  • August 10 (1:00 - 2:00)
    Implementing innovative solutions with an equity lens. Register Here

    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. 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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