Late January 2018 Newsletter
Executive Director's Message
I recently attended the annual Northeast Home Health Leadership Summit sponsored by eight northeast home health associations, including the VNAs of Vermont. I had the pleasure of introducing fellow-Vermonter and closing keynote speaker, Kevin Pearce. Kevin was a champion snowboarder who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at the height of his career, while training for the 2010 Olympics. Kevin's story is recounted in "The Crash Reel," an acclaimed documentary that chronicles his rise to professional snowboarding success and his recovery from the TBI, an injury that took years to overcome and left him a different man. 

Kevin's talk was an opportunity to step back from the details of health care policy to focus on the qualities that make good leaders, co-workers, family and friends. Kevin's story is about his own perseverance and optimism; it is also a story about his family's strength and resilience as they saw him through years-long treatment and recovery. 

As an athlete, I was struck by Kevin's determination to ride again and experience the feeling of "flow" that comes from the sport he considers "the love of (his) life." But the person I found most compelling was his mother, Pia Pearce. She appears in the documentary: curled up next to him in a hospital bed; cheering him on through his rehabilitation; in anguish during a family conversation with Kevin about whether he should risk his life on a snowboard again, but determined to keep her cool. All parents of teenagers and young adults balance fostering independence with keeping their kids reasonably safe, but the extremes of Kevin's risk-taking tolerance and the severity of his injury made this common conflict far more stark for Kevin's parents. I'll be screening "The Crash Reel" for my own teenage son sometime soon. 

I had a chance to chat with Kevin after the program; he's a warm and engaging young man. Check out his t-shirt in the picture of us together. Kevin and his brother Adam co-founded LoveYourBrain, a non-profit organization that is "working to connect, educate and empower people to live a brain-healthy lifestyle [through] yoga, meditation and mindfulness programs."


Jill Mazza Olson
Executive Director
Vermont Update
The most significant legislative event last week was the release of the Governor's budget proposal on Tuesday. The budget contains a number of health care and human services proposals that are of interest to the VNAs of Vermont. 

Legislators and advocacy groups alike are still "unpacking" the budget and will continue to do so as the various departments go in to testify to the House Committee on Appropriations and the various policy committees, but there are some early highlights: 
  • Pilot programs: $500,000 to pilot school-based dental care and universal home visits for new babies 
  • Various workforce investments 
  • Restructuring of the Vermont Chronic Care Initiative, a Medicaid-only chronic disease initiative, including the elimination of the primary care care management (PCCM) fee. Blueprint funding remains intact. 
  • A nearly $5 million cut to hospital "disproportionate share" payments 
  • Elimination of state-specific cost-sharing reductions for Vermonters purchasing qualified health plans on the Exchange. 
  • General language about "outdated" or "administratively costly" human services programs that bear further scrutiny 
  • Investments in mental health: street outreach workers, a permanent secure residential facility and a new forensic unit 
  • Elimination of four staff positions at the Green Mountain Care Board 
The budget documents are available here. A list of Agency of Human Services "ups and downs" is available here

The VNAs of Vermont is also monitoring a number of policy bills that are picking up traction in various legislative committees, including the minimum wage bill ( S.40), a bill to "mitigate trauma and toxic stress" in childhood ( S.261), a bill supported by the Vermont Ethics Network that clarifies Vermont's statutes on advance directives, do-not-resuscitate orders and clinician orders for life sustaining treatment ( H.690) and a bill to revise Vermont's certificate of need statute ( H.669).

Federal Update
Last week, Congress approved a short-term funding package that reauthorizes the program that provides health insurance to 9 million children across the country, including those in Vermont's Dr. Dynasaur program. Unfortunately, Congress has not yet addressed the so-called "Medicare extender" package that includes the home health rural add-on. As we have previously reported, the expiration of the rural add-on on January 1, 2018 represents a 2.5 to 3 percent Medicare cut to home health agencies.
What We're Reading

Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts
Upcoming Events
January 31, 1pm 
Montpelier, VT

February 13, 11:30am 
brought to you by VNAVT
February 7, 11:30am 

February 15, 2pm  

February 8, 10am 
Waterbury, VT

February 15, 2pm  
hosted by NHPCO  
February 8, 2pm 

February 28, 11:30am 

Upcoming Conferences
J6/JK Home Health and Hospice Medicare Summit 2018:
Maintaining a Healthy Compliance Program
hosted by National Government Services
September 19 & 20 | The Orleans, Las Vegas, NV 
Save the Date! Registration opens in February.
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