Scott Administration Proposes Health Care Financial
This Wednesday, Mike Smith, Secretary of the Agency of Human
Services (AHS), provided details to lawmakers and the Green Mountain Care Board
of an economic relief package the Scott Administration is proposing to
stabilize Vermont’s health care system. The package, which must also be
approved by the legislature, would dedicate up to $300 million of CARES Act
funds to provide immediate economic relief to the entire health care system,
including hospitals, independent clinician offices, FQHCs, long-term care, home
health, dentists and others. The Secretary first made the announcement in a
joint Senate and House Health Care Committee hearing in which Devon Green, Vice
President of Government Relations of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and
Health Systems, reported Vermont hospitals have lost approximately $100 million
per month in revenue over the last two months and Susan Ridzon, Executive
Director of Health First, estimated 20-30 percent of independent physician
practices in the state may close due to financial losses. VMS is partnering
with other Vermont health care organizations to provide feedback to AHS on the
criteria and process for applying for the funds. Timing on the package is
still to be determined but the funding must be spent by December 31, 2020 and
can only be spent on COVID-related losses.
PPP Flexibility Bill Passes U.S. House
A bill that would extend the period small businesses can use Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from 8 weeks to 24 weeks (H.R. 7010) passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 417-1 Thursday. A similar bill is being considered in the U.S. Senate. Vermont Congressman Peter Welch co-sponsored H.R. 7010 and said, “The Payroll Protection Program has provided much-needed funds for thousands of Vermont businesses devastated by the pandemic, but the strict SBA loan forgiveness requirements make the program unworkable for many businesses. Vermont businesses need urgent relief, and these reforms help provide the necessary flexibility so that these loans work for them. This bill is critical to help small businesses survive during this unprecedented crisis.” The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (H.R. 7010) will:
- Allow forgiveness for expenses beyond the current 8-week covered period to 24 weeks and extend the rehiring deadline.
- Increase the limit for nonpayroll expenses from 25 percent to 40 percent to better match business expenditures.
- Extend loan terms from 2 years to 5 years for new loans.
- Ensure full access to payroll tax deferment for recipients of PPP loans.
Health Care Committees Continue to Advance Legislation in Extended Session
This week, the Senate Health and Welfare and House Health Care Committees took testimony on a number of pre-COVID legislative priorities, as well as legislation they have developed during the pandemic. These actions include:
- S.128 – The House Health Care Committee voted to advance the physician assistant (PA) licensure bill by a vote of 10-1. Before passage, the Committee added language clarifying that a physician has to be available to consult with a PA at all times. This bill now advances to the House floor.
- Misc. Health Care bill – The House Health Care Committee is expected to vote next week on a miscellaneous health care bill that includes language requiring insurance carriers to review prior authorization policies annually and eliminate those that are no longer necessary. It also requires that all private payers establish pilot gold card programs. The Committee expressed unanimous support of the prior authorization language that VMS has advocated for throughout many legislative sessions. The bill would next go to the Senate.
- Act 91 Extensions – VMS, along with other Vermont health care organizations, have asked the legislature to extend the emergency health care regulatory flexibilities in Act 91 until March 30, 2021, at a minimum. Both the House and Senate Health Care Committees are considering this proposal, along with telehealth coverage provisions.
- S.220 –The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is currently weighing in on language that has already passed out of the Senate Government Operations Committee providing pharmacists with limited prescribing authority. VMS is comfortable with the proposal and it is expected to pass out of the Senate before moving to the House.
AMA Advocacy Actions
This week, the AMA:
- Sent a letter to the HHS, urging funding for native populations be released, as promised federal funds have not reached American Indians and Alaskan Natives to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Signed on to a letter to Congress with over 200 industry stakeholders calling on federal lawmakers to enact temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These liability protections are designed to safeguard businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions, as well as health care providers and facilities from lawsuits so they can continue to contribute to an effective recovery from the pandemic.
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