House Health Care Committee Finalizing Health Care Provider Stabilization Recommendations
Today, the House Health Care Committee discussed their proposed Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) recommendations, which include directing a significant portion of Coronavirus Relief Funds to the Agency of Human Services (AHS) to establish a Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program. They must finalize and submit their recommendations to the House Appropriations Committee by noon tomorrow. The Committee is still discussing what dollar amount will be directed to the Grant Program. While the Scott Administration proposed providing $375 million to health care providers, the House Speaker has allocated the Health Care Committee $150 million for health care related needs and expenses. Earlier in the week, VMS and a broader Health Care Coalition provided the Committee with a joint letter urging them to approve a single process for all health care practitioners, much like the retainer process AHS stood up earlier in the crisis. VMS will continue to weigh in as this proposal progresses through the legislative process.
Vermont Physician License Renewal to Open in August; CME Requirement Reduced
The license renewal process for physicians for the next biennium (Dec. 1, 2018 to Nov. 30, 2020) will begin August, 2020 and will close at the end of November, 2020. As an acknowledgement of the cancellation of many CME programs and conferences and the many hours of professional development performed by licensees to learn about COVID-19, the Board of Medical Practice has reduced the CME requirement from 30 hours to 15 hours of AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, including 1 hour addressing palliative care, hospice care, OR pain management, and 2 hours addressing prescribing-controlled substances for physicians with DEA registrations. These three subject-specific activities count towards the 15-hour requirement (and cannot be waived by the Board as they are required by Vermont State statute). Licensees who have not completed the 15-hour CME requirement may file ‘make-up plans’ along with their license renewal application. For online, free or low cost CME options, click here. For more information about license renewal, see the Board of Medical Practice webpage.
Pharmacy Prescribing Proposal Advances Through Legislature
VMS has been weighing in on the annual Office of Professional Regulation bill S.220 as it moves through the legislature. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee considered the bill last week and focused on the section that would allow pharmacists to prescribe certain medications and devises. VMS has supported a consensus approach to this topic that will allow prescribing of a set list of medications including tobacco cessation products, self-administered hormonal contraceptives, influenza vaccine and dietary fluoride. At the request of the Department of Health, a new provision was added by the Committee to allow pharmacists to prescribe a COVID 19 vaccine when one becomes available - or another vaccine in response to a significant public health after finding that existing channels for vaccine administration are insufficient to meet the public health need. VMS was open to pharmacy administration of COVID 19 vaccines but expressed concern with opening up the administration of all vaccines to pharmacists for reasons including ensuring proper documentation, follow-up and continuity of care.
Board of Medical Practice Employer Disciplinary Reporting Bill Passes
The Senate passed H.438, a bill making updates to the procedures of the Board of Medical Practice and the licensure of physicians and podiatrists. The bill includes changes to the requirements for reporting disciplinary actions taken by employers against physicians. Final changes to the bill are being reviewed by the House and it will then go to the governor’s desk.
Federal Provider Relief Fund Update – Additional Funds Available for Physicians
The AMA has continued to press HHS to swiftly distribute funds to assist those physicians who have not previously received any money from the federal Provider Relief Fund. The Department announced it is moving forward to provide some relief. HHS expects to distribute approximately $15 billion to eligible physicians and organizations that participate in state Medicaid and CHIP programs and have not received a payment from the Provider Relief Fund General Allocation. Starting June 10, HHS plans to launch a portal that will allow eligible physicians and organizations to report their annual patient revenue data and other necessary information to receive a payment equal to at least 2 percent of reported gross revenues from patient care.
To be eligible for this funding, health care providers must not have received payments from the $50 billion Provider Relief Fund General Distribution and either have directly billed their state Medicaid/CHIP programs or Medicaid managed care plans for healthcare-related services between January 1, 2018, to May 31, 2020. Close to one million health care providers may be eligible for this funding. More information about eligibility and the application process is available here.
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