Governor Releases Vermont Economic Relief Package for Small Businesses
Yesterday, Governor Phil Scott announced a $400 million economic relief and recovery package to assist Vermont businesses struggling to stay open due to the COVID-19 crisis. The package, which uses funding from the federal CARES Act, would direct $310 million now to provide immediate relief for state sectors hardest hit by the shutdown, to be followed by $90 million in long-term recovery investments. This package needs legislative approval to advance and the Governor is seeking action within the next week. Health care practices may qualify for this initial recovery package, but the VMS is also tracking a potential health care - focused relief package with more details to come.
Action Alert: Please Tell House Appropriations to Fund Primary Care Scholarship Bill
Earlier this week, the VMS reported on testimony the House Appropriations Committee took on H.607, a bill that creates a scholarship program for primary care physicians who commit to serve in rural, medically underserved areas of Vermont. Last night, during the Primary Care Advisory Group of the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) clinicians expressed support for this bill which would provide medical school tuition for up to five third-year and up to five fourth-year medical students annually who commit to practicing primary care in the state. Please email these House Appropriations Committee members and let them know that the primary care scholarship program in H.607 is critical to alleviate Vermont's primary care workforce shortage and to provide annual funding for the scholarship program:
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firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Legislature Continues to Weigh Access to Telehealth Services, Coverage for Audio-Only
The Senate and House Health Care Committees held a joint hearing and discussion this morning regarding continuing coverage for audio-only telehealth services as well as helping address broadband and technological access issues to telehealth services. The Committees are considering two bills: One draft bill (draft request 20-0981) would continue current coverage of audio-only services while a workgroup considers what permanent coverage should look like after the COVID 19 state of emergency ends. VMS would be a member of this workgroup. This bill will likely also extend other provisions of Act 91, such as licensing flexibilities and insurance coverage requirements for COVID testing, that are intended to help respond to immediate COVID 19 needs. A second bill (currently unnumbered) would direct the Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care (VPQHC) to work with its Statewide Telehealth Workgroup, the Department of Public Service and other stakeholders to assess areas of the state that have limited broadband and opportunities for use federal funds to increase Vermonter’s access to telehealth services. VMS recently conducted a survey in order to assess how telehealth is working for practices, what equipment or policies would make this delivery method more successful and whether patients need assistance in achieving video capability. Click for the VMS Telehealth Survey results.
State Releases Guidance for Essential Workers Planning Non-Essential Out-of-State Travel
As health care facilities and practices begin to resume care, health care staff across the state have been asking if they must abide by the 14-day self-quarantine protocol if they travel outside the state for vacation or to visit family for more than a day. Vermont Department of Health has responded that although health care workers are essential, “leaving for non-essential reasons is a different situation. Non-essential travel should make someone follow the non-essential pathway.” The Agency of Commerce and Community Development released specific guidance on May 20, 2020 regarding cross state travel that defines “essential travel” as commuter or daily interstate travel for work, health care or family visitation. Leisure travel to and from Vermont for non-essential reasons requires even essential workers to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to Vermont. For more information about how to quarantine, visit the Vermont Department of Health’s quarantine chart.
VT Edition Features VMS Members on Health Care During COVID-19
Yesterday, VMS members were featured on Vermont Edition in a program called "Navigating Routine Medical Care, Elective Procedures During the Pandemic." Click to hear your colleagues: Dr. Rebecca Bell, pediatric critical care physician at the UVM Children's Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Stephen Leffler, president and chief operating officer for UVM Medical Center and Dr. Ben Rosenberg, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Porter Orthopedics, discuss how now is the time for patients to seek routine health care and how Vermont hospitals and health care practices are beginning to resume elective procedures safely.
Senate Health Committee Takes Testimony on Pharmacy Prescribing in OPR Bill
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee took preliminary testimony on S.220, the 2020 Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) bill, and focused its attention on sections of the bill which expand the scope of practice of pharmacists to give them limited prescribing authority. The bill would require the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) to approve state protocols for pharmacy prescribing after public comment. VMS, as well as our primary care partners at the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter and Vermont Academy of Family Physicians took part in stakeholder meetings with OPR and the Board of Pharmacy over the fall and have been engaged in providing feedback on the legislative proposal throughout the session and supports this change. Click here to read the VMS memo of support. VDH also released a Health Advisory today, May 21, 2020, authorizing Vermont pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests approved by FDA for pharmacy-based sample collection or administration. Find the Board of Pharmacy COVID-19 Emergency Guidance here.