February 1st, 2022


Join VMS for Virtual Advocacy Town Hall on Monday, February 14th, 12pm

Please join the VMS on Monday, February 14th from 12-1pm for our 2022 VMS Health Care Policy Townhall with Vermont legislative leaders:  

Do you have insight to share on being a practitioner in health care as we approach the second year of the pandemic? Are you passionate about a current health policy issue? Your medical expertise makes you uniquely qualified to be a health advocate and help lead evidence-based health care policy change in Vermont. This February, 14th, 2022, VMS will host a virtual conversation with health care policy decision-makers as part of our 2022 VMS Advocacy Month. Join us, as your voice is critical to improving care for Vermonters, Vermont’s health care system and the practice environment. 

No registration is required. Simply log on this Zoom link.

        Contact Senate Government Operations Committee to Oppose Optometrist Surgery

        Last week the Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony on S.158, a bill that would expand the scope of procedures optometrist may perform to include injections, lasers and surgeries to the eye and adjacent structures.  Unlike past years, this bill is more expansive with a list of only 17 procedure areas that would NOT be allowed.

        Brian Kim, M.D. and Amy Gregory, M.D. testified on behalf of the Vermont Ophthalmological Society and the Vermont Medical Society in strong opposition to this bill citing, lack of standardized training programs for optometrist and lack of hands-on training on live humans, even in those states where it is legal.  Dr. Kim and Dr. Gregory also asked the committee to rely on the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) report which concluded that optometrists are not properly trained in and cannot safely perform the proposed advanced procedures. Further, OPR found that there is little need for, and minimal cost savings associated with, expanding the optometric scope of practice to include advanced procedures.

        The Senate Government Operations Committee plans to take this bill up again on Tuesday, February 8th and they need to keep hearing from you about the complexity of this bill given the inadequate training and the risk to patients.  Even if you have already reached out, please reach out again to highlight succinctly these main points:

        • Optometrists are not properly trained in the proposed advanced procedures, and therefore OPR cannot ensure that optometrists can safely perform the proposed advanced procedures.
        • It’s not clear that proper training is available.
        • There is little need for, and minimal cost savings associated with, expanding the optometric scope of practice to include advanced procedures.
        Contact the Senate Government Operations Committee and urge them to rely on the OPR report which recommended against expanding the optometric scope of practice to include the proposed advanced procedures. Please send messages to the following: jwhite@leg.state.vt.us; apollina@leg.state.vt.us; bcollamore@leg.state.vt.us; AClarkson@leg.state.vt.us; kram@leg.state.vt.us

              Please Take Action on Reproductive Rights

              Last week, the House Human Services Committee held a public hearing on Prop 5: the Reproductive Liberty Amendment and then voted in support of the proposed constitutional amendment to protect reproductive autonomy by a vote of 9-2. The amendment is scheduled for debate on the House floor next Tuesday, February 8th, where it needs to receive a simple majority vote of 50% +1 to advance to the Senate. Please contact your Representative to urge them to vote in favor of Prop 5. Click here to find your representative. 

                    Omicron Cases in Vermont Continue Sharp Decline

                    At this week’s Administration press conference, the modeling report showed that cases remain elevated with nearly 700 average new infections reported daily, and Vermont hospitals remain short-staffed with high inpatient counts. However, cases in Vermont this week plummeted by more than 3,000—a decrease of 40%. In the last two weeks, cases have fallen 56%. Forecasts predict these trends will continue, following similar patterns in states like New York and New Jersey where Omicron peaked earlier than in Vermont.  Secretary of Education Dan French emphasized that schools have received new FAQ guidance around testing and Commissioner of Health Mark Levine begin to discuss what new phases of addressing the pandemic after the Omicron surge might look like.  The full modeling report can be found here and links to notes from the press conference can be found here. To view the notes from the January 28, 2022 VAHHS call, click here.

                    Other COVID-19 updates from the week:

                    • The federal CMS Health Care Staff Vaccination Requirement has gone into effect in Vermont and staff at applicable facilities must complete a primary COVID-19 vaccine series by February 28, 2022.  The rules now apply nationwide and updated FAQs can be found here.
                    • Vermont Child Health Improvement Program/AAP-Vermont/VDH has an Updated Pediatric Return to School/Childcare Flowchart and the AAP has released an updated COVID-19 Interim Guidance: Return to Sports and Physical Activity and decision chart.
                    • Last week HHS announced that it will be disbursing an additional $2 billion in Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 payments this week. Like the payments allocated in December, these payments will be based on lost revenues and increased expenses due to COVID-19 and will be made to physicians who previously applied for relief funds. More information is available here.
                    • The FDA on Monday granted full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
                    • Pfizer-BioNTech may file a submission for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration for use in children aged six months to five years as early as Tuesday, making the vaccine available by the end of February; coverage here and here.
                    • The share of children ages 5-11 having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose now ranges from 63.1% in Vermont to just 11.2% in Mississippi. 


                          Do You Know a Health Care Worker Who Needs Help with Student Loans?

                          Because of a historic investment in the American Rescue Plan, help is on the way for many. Today, health care workers in Vermont can apply now to participate in the National Health Service Corps and receive student loan repayment by working at specific health care facilities throughout our state that provide care for underserved populations. But the deadline for applying is February 3rd

                          So, if you know a nurse, doctor, dentist, or other medical professional with student loans who might benefit from this information, I’d ask that you please forward this email to them. This is the largest ever federal loan repayment and scholarship program and we want to make sure everyone knows about it.

                          For information on eligible sites, including those in Vermont, use National Health Service Corp’s Health Workforce Connector.

                          To apply by February 3rd, please see below: 

                          • National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program Apply here.
                          • National Health Service Corps Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program Apply here.
                          • National Health Service Corps Rural Community Loan Repayment Program Apply here.
                          • For more information about these programs, read here.

                                Feedback Needed:  Changes to Medicaid Timely Filing Reconsideration Request Process

                                Vermont Medicaid (DVHA) has recently proposed changes to the Timely Filing Reconsideration Request Process.  Effective for requests received on or after March 1, 2022, the Agency of Human Services would no longer offer a second opportunity for providers to submit additional information to support a request that the Agency reconsider denying a claim for failing to timely file.

                                The current process is:

                                • Providers can submit a timely filing reconsideration request within 90 days from the initial timely filing denial.
                                • Requests for review of timely filing denials are considered on a case-by-case basis.
                                • If the reconsideration is denied requesting addition information, the provider must resubmit a new timely filing reconsideration request with the additional supporting documentation no later than 60 days from the date of the denial letter.

                                This change would eliminate the last bullet/opportunity to resubmit a new request with additional supporting documentation.  Please contact Jessa Barnard at jbarnard@vtmd.org by Wednesday, February 16th to share questions or concerns.

                                Payor Contracting 101 for Private Practice Physicians

                                Practicing physicians encounter a wide variety of contracts for payment for their services. The AMA held a virtual mini-bootcamp on December 1, 2021, covering both introductory and advanced contracting topics important for physicians to know. The introductory portion of that event recording, “Payor Contracting 101,” is now available, and covers basic contract provisions, the legal rules governing contracts, commonly negotiated provisions, common disputes, and innovative/non-traditional opportunities. To accompany the webinar, the AMA has also published a payor contracting toolkit, which provides an overview of payors and outlines common insurance products and reimbursement structures. The recording of the advanced contracting portion of the bootcamp, “Payor Contracting 201,” will follow via email release and will be available online in early February!

                                View more information here.


                                Join us every 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month from 12:30pm to 1pm as Commissioner of Health, Mark Levine provides us with the most pressing COVID-19 information affecting the state and nation. You will have the opportunity to submit questions to Dr. Levine who will answer them, time-permitting.

                                You can join the zoom meetings beginning in January here or add to your calendar by following this link and clicking download (you will then need to open the downloaded file and click save to add to your calendar).

                                Project ECHO: Aging, Community, and Equity (PEACE)

                                2nd Wednesday of Every Month from February to September

                                12pm to 1:30pm, EST

                                Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is an evidence-based method developed by researchers at the University of New Mexico. During teleECHO™ sessions, expert mentors share their expertise across a virtual network via case-based learning.

                                In this Older Adult ECHO program, we will explore:       

                                • Pandemic-related social isolation
                                • Methods to support formal & informal caregivers
                                • Impacts of the pandemic on cognitive decline
                                • Effects of isolation on physical & mental health
                                • Solutions for rural communities

                                Intended audience: Medical, mental health, and community social service individuals working to support older adults in rural settings of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Northern New York

                                Register here.

                                The 33rd Annual Eastern Winter Dermatology Conference

                                February 5th - 7th, 2022, ET

                                Dr. Glenn Goldman invites you to attend this year’s dermatology conference which is returning to Stowe for its 33rd year. The conference is divided into morning and late afternoon sessions, with a large mid-day break to allow for recreation. Although the course is designed for dermatologists, medical professionals with an interest in dermatology are welcome to attend.

                                Topics: Locoregional and in-transit metastatic melanoma, skin reactions to immunotherapy, testing and imaging for SCC, MCC, and MM, cosmetic dermatology, challenging cases, medical pearls, Dermatology Jeopardy, and more!

                                For registration information, full agenda & accreditation details, click here.

                                Questions: Contact Michele Morin at: Michele.Morin@med.uvm.edu or 802-922-3594

                                The 27th Annual Vermont Perspectives in Anesthesia Conference

                                March 2nd - March 4th, ET

                                Drs. Matt Fisher and Bob Williams invite you to join them for this year’s Live VIRTUAL Conference, with practical reviews and timely informative clinical updates on a variety of topics of current interest in Anesthesia. Registered participants will have access to On-Demand Recordings to view and claim credit for any sessions that are missed during the live conference - for up to 12 months following the conference.

                                Topics: The Difficult Airway, Obstructive Breathing Patterns in the PACU, Perioperative EEG, Patients with Opioid Use Disorder, NORA emergencies, Non-Cardiac Surgery: Myocardial Injury and Preoperative Assessment, The Value of Women on Teams, The Anesthesia Department on the Other Side of COVID, and more!

                                For registration information, full agenda & accreditation details, click here.

                                Questions: Contact Michele Morin at: Michele.Morin@med.uvm.edu or 802-922-3594


                                Vermont Medical Society

                                134 Main Street

                                Montpelier, VT 05602

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