State to Rescind Health Care Sector COVID-19 Guidance

According to State officials, when Vermont reaches 80% of eligible Vermonters having a first COVID-19 vaccine and enters “Step 4” of the Vermont Forward Plan, Vermont will no longer require sector-specific guidance for health care settings, such as the Guidance for Inpatient and Outpatient Procedures and Hospital Visitor Guidance.  As of June 1, 78.4% of eligible Vermonters have been vaccinated and 8,708 Vermonters remain to be vaccinated to reach the goal. Given current vaccination rates, the transition is on pace to occur between June 6 and June 10.  At that point, health care settings may establish their own guidance and may, but will not be required to, follow CDC guidance, including Updated Healthcare Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations in Response to COVID-19 Vaccination. This document includes updated testing recommendations for health care workers, visitation guidance and guidance for communal gatherings/activities in the health care setting. Some sectors, such as hospitals and long term care settings, may be required to follow CDC guidance by federal accreditation/inspection standards. Public messaging from the State will reinforce that masks may still be required in health care settings.  In addition, Universal Guidance will be “encouraged” for all businesses, such as staying home when sick, wearing face coverings when unvaccinated, and practicing good hand hygiene.  

Governor Scott has also stated that he is reviewing when Vermont will end the State of Emergency related to COVID-19, and that lifting the emergency might come later this month.  Members are reminded that there are some regulatory flexibilities pegged to the State of Emergency, although S. 117/Act 6 extended many to a date certain and are not dependent on the State of Emergency.  A summary of Act 6 is available here.  Note the following that are linked to the State of Emergency:

  • Waiver of obtaining/documenting a patient’s informed consent for use of telemedicine (sunsets 60 days after the State of Emergency) (informed consent for audio-only telehealth currently required, see sample);
  • Liability protections for health care providers engaged in emergency management services or response activities;
  • Waiver of licensure requirements for telehealth services provided to patients located in other states, such as New Hampshire or New York, are determined by those states’ laws, and in many cases are dependent on the status of a declared emergency in those states.  See the charts from the Federation of State Medical Boards to confirm if you will need to seek licensure to provide services to patients located in other states when the state of emergencies end in those jurisdictions

The following will continue to a date certain:  

  • Health insurance companies must continue to reimburse for audio-only telehealth services at parity with in-person services (through the remainder of 2021);
  • Ability for out-of-state licensed health care professionals to provide services to patients located in Vermont by telehealth (through March 2022);
  • Buprenorphine prescription renewals without an office visit (through March 2022); and
  • Waiver of using HIPAA compliant telehealth platforms (through March 2022, if federal waiver continues to allow – dependent on Federal Public Health Emergency).

For questions or concerns regarding this transition, contact

The Vermont Medical Society, 134 Main St., Montpelier|VT 05602