Legislative Update
Two weeks ago, the legislature failed to override Governor Scott’s veto on paid family and medical leave. Last week, Governor Scott wielded his veto power yet again, this time on S.23, the minimum wage bill that would increase the hourly wage to $12.55 per hour by 2022. The Senate quickly overrode the governor’s veto with a 24-6 vote. The House has scheduled their override vote for this week. After falling one vote short on paid family and medical leave, it remains to be seen what the House will do with minimum wage.

Last Week

Physician assistant licensure: The PA licensure bill passed the Senate and will move on to the House next week. The bill includes replacing physician supervision with a single practice agreement, and removing statutory liability to providers for oversight of PAs. Two amendments were added to the bill that do not change the practical effect of the bill, but clarify that physicians may still be held liable for their own conduct and clarifying the existing liability of nurse practitioners and PAs.

Implementation of health care reform: VAHHS testified in opposition of S.290 , a bill that requires the Green Mountain Care Board to approve all provider contracts and attain site neutrality through rate setting; creates new reporting requirements for hospitals and OneCare Vermont; and ties OneCare Vermont’s salary increases to meeting quality and budget targets. VAHHS argued that Vermont’s hospitals need predictability to make the transition over to value-based care and that bills such as S.290 create instability for the entire health care system.
In the News
Leahy: The coronavirus and Trump's budget
Vermont Business Magazine

Since first emerging in Wuhan, China on December 31st, the outbreak of a new coronavirus, COVID-19 (“novel coronavirus”), has spread to 25 countries, infected more than 44,000 people, caused at least 1,100 deaths, forced entire cities into lockdown, triggered hundreds of international flight cancelations, restricted hundreds of Americans to U.S. military bases in a federal government quarantine, and caused significant economic harm to countries and businesses around the globe. All this in only six weeks, with no end in sight.

The virus has infected and killed more people – and has done so faster – than the SARS outbreak in China in the early 2000s, which infected 8,098 people and caused 774 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has formally declared a public health emergency of international concern – the sixth such declaration since 2009 – and the outbreak will get worse, possibly far worse, before it gets better. 

While the novel coronavirus outbreak is alarming, and is creating fear around the world, it should not be surprising.

Scientists, epidemiologists, and other global health experts have for years warned that infectious disease outbreaks will continue to occur more frequently and cause greater harm, and that most emerging viruses will spread from animals to humans. Such zoonotic viruses are increasingly common as human activity, including population growth and expanding human encroachment into wildlife habitat, increases contact between animals and humans, which is what happened in Wuhan.

Meeting Vermont’s transportation energy goals will benefit
our health
Vermont Business Magazine

A recent study by the Vermont Department of Health shows that transportation and energy policies are more important to your health than you might think.

The Health Department’s analysis of transportation-related health benefits found that changes in how we use transportation in Vermont can not only reduce greenhouse gases, but could also prevent 2,000 early deaths and save $1.1 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.

The transportation goals set out in the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan call for walking, biking and bus use to double by 2030. The plan also calls for an increase in carpooling and sets 2050 as the target year for 80% of the cars in Vermont to be electric powered.

“Meeting Vermont’s transportation goals is a significant health-in-all-policies objective,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “When the state takes these important steps to improve transportation and address climate change, it has a ripple effect on public health through improved physical activity, better air quality, traffic safety and overall quality of life.”

University of Vermont Health Network confronts negative operating margin
Vermont Business Magazine

The University of Vermont Health Network is taking important steps to ensure financial stability in the coming years, as economic forces challenge health care providers in Vermont and around the country. Each UVM Health Network affiliate is undertaking initiatives to preserve access to care for patients and support employees while also changing the way care is delivered to focus on wellness as much as illness and to control costs.

In the quarter ending December 31, 2019, the UVM Health Network missed its budget target by 2.5 percent, or $14.6 million. The Network finished that quarter with a negative operating margin of 1.7 percent, or about $10 million. This comes after missing the margin target for last fiscal year, and the first-quarter performance means the Network may miss its margin target again this fiscal year. As a non-profit health system, the “margin” is how health care providers invest in their people, equipment and facilities, which makes meeting it critical.

“Challenges loom large for rural health care systems like ours and that is why we have come together as a health network, partnering to meet the needs of our patients, invest in our people and ensure our communities get and stay healthy,” said John R. Brumsted, MD, CEO of the UVM Health Network. “We have a good deal of work ahead to shore up our Network and we are committed to being transparent, thoughtful and diligent in our efforts.”

Youth survey data shows rise in vaping, depression
VT Digger

Half of all high school students in Vermont have tried electronic vapor products like e-cigarettes, up from just 30% in 2015. That's according to results from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a study administered statewide to thousands of Vermont students every two years. 

The YRBS was developed by the Centers for Disease Control in 1990 to monitor behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disease and injury among young people. The survey anonymously polls middle and high school students about such topics as substance use, sexual health, and nutrition. In Vermont, over 18,000 public and private high school students participated in the latest survey.

The results also highlighted an increasingly bleak mental health picture for Vermont’s teens. Thirty-one percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in the last year that they stopped doing some usual activities. That’s up from 21% 10 years ago. 

Springfield Hospital Looks To Sever Ties With Clinics In Bankruptcy Plan

Springfield Hospital will likely cut ties with nine health clinics throughout the region as part of its bankruptcy plan.

The clinics in Springfield, Londonderry, Ludlow, Chester, Rockingham and in Charlestown, New Hampshire are currently part of Springfield Medical Care Systems, and they are tied to Springfield Hospital.

But Springfield Hospital is working to become part of a three-hospital system with Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor and with Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, New Hampshire. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center would likely oversee the new organization.

Springfield Medical Care Systems CEO Josh Dufresne said the clinics cannot remain tied to Springfield Hospital under the proposed three-hospital partnership.

“As we’re looking to split these two companies apart and be completely independent, we have to make sure that the right services stay within the right company,” Dufresne said.

Young And HIV-Positive In Vermont
VT Digger

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20% of new HIV diagnoses in 2017 were youth ages 13 to 24. However, barriers to information and testing mean the actual number of young people with HIV is likely higher.

On this Vermont Edition: Young and HIV-positive. We learn about the resources available to young Vermonters with the virus, and consider what is being done to counter HIV stigma and narrow the gaps to care.

Our guests are:

  • Johnny Chagnon, Health and Wellness Coordinator for GLAM Vermont, a Pride Center of Vermont program; he was diagnosed with HIV in 2013 at age 26 and serves on the board of the Vermont Positive Living Coalition (formerly the Vermont People With AIDS Coalition)
  • David Schein, Executive Director of the Vermont Positive Living Coalition (formerly the Vermont People With AIDS Coalition

People in the News
Mark Your Calendar!
Now until March 10
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital

Every other Tuesday, February 18-June 23rd, 6:00 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Swanton

Wednesday, February 26, 5:30 p.m.
Milne Public Library, Williamstown, MA

Wednesday, March 25
Hilton DoubleTree, Burlington