Legislative Update
Last Week

Another vote on overriding a veto! Another one-vote margin! But unlike with paid family and medical leave, this vote went in the other direction and passed minimum wage into law. The new law raises the minimum wage to $11.75 in 2021 and $12.55 in 2022. After 2022, the minimum wage will be annually indexed to inflation.

On the health care front, several important initiatives made it out of committee and are moving forward.

Telehealth:  House Health Care unanimously passed out the  telehealth bill  on Thursday. The bill expands reimbursement for all medically necessary telehealth services, including "store and forward" telemedicine, which means providers can weigh in on patients at a time other than during the patients' visits with referring providers. 

Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact:  The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed a  bill  that would require Vermont to join the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact. The bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee before it goes to a full vote in
the House.

Board of Medical Practice:  House Health Care passed a board of medical practice bill that clarifies board procedures around disciplinary investigations and hospital disciplinary reporting. The bill clarifies that providers being investigated by the board of medical practice have a right to view their investigation file and have the opportunity to depose witnesses. The bill also creates a framework at ensuring hospital reporting of a disciplinary action even if the provider has voluntarily left the hospital.  

Next Week: 

Town Meeting Week:  All the legislators go back to their towns to vote and hear from their constituents.  If you see your legislator over coffee and doughnuts or at the town transfer station, remember to ask for their support on workforce and telehealth. 

Have a great week, and remember to vote!

In the News
Vermont rural hospitals continue to suffer losses

The state’s rural hospitals are continuing to bleed, reporting higher costs and fewer patients to cover expenses.

Six of Vermont’s 14 hospitals lost money in fiscal year 2019 — twice as many as the previous year. They’re also increasingly reliant on money from sources other than patient care to make ends meet, such as pharmaceutical discounts, grants, and private fundraising, according to a Green Mountain Care Board staff presentation Wednesday.

Patrick Rooney, director of health system finance for the Green Mountain Care Board, declared the prognosis “bleak.” Still, “the results weren’t a surprise,” Rooney said. The care board receives monthly reports from the hospitals to “actively monitor the situation.”

The problem is not unique to Vermont. Since 2005, 166 rural hospitals across the country have shuttered. A quarter of hospitals in rural areas are at mid- or high risk of financial distress, according to a report from the University of North Carolina.

How Vermont is preparing for coronavirus threat


Coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, with more than 80,000 confirmed cases. Gov. Phil Scott spoke with our Celine McArthur and Darren Perron about the coronavirus threat here in Vermont.
CDC: Flu Is Hitting Kids Hard This Winter. What About Vermont?

The flu is hitting children especially hard this year: more than 100 child deaths have been blamed on the virus this season, according to the CDC. While there have been no flu-related child deaths in Vermont this season, the virus is still having and outsized effect on the young: 86% of flu cases have been reported in people under the age of 24, and so far 35 schools have seen flu outbreaks.

UVM Medical Center infectious disease specialist and Larner College of Medicine professor Dr. Tim Lahey joins Vermont Edition to discuss the flu in Vermont this year, how it's affected ERs and urgent care centers in the state, the estimated 45% effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine, and how the flu-like symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus are testing Vermont's screening and emergency protocols.

OneCare reports $12.4M Medicaid shortfall

Preliminary results show that OneCare Vermont spent $12.4 million more than expected on Medicaid patients last year. 

Those numbers, which extend through September 2019, have yet to be finalized. But if they remain constant, it marks the first time that OneCare would need the state to pick up part of the tab.

Jenney Samuelson, deputy commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said the shortfall is the result of more people than expected in the Medicaid program seeking medical care.

Still, the additional expense could prove to be a challenge for OneCare as it works to convince lawmakers and regulators that it has been effective at lowering health care costs. 

OneCare Vermont, a statewide accountable care organization, collects money from Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance companies. It then pays doctors a set fee for each patient, as part of a shift away from paying for each procedure they perform. That payment is meant to lower costs by incentivizing early preventive treatment before more costly procedures become necessary.

Donation gives stillborn infants’ families time with their child
Vermont Business Magazine

When a family learns that the child they have eagerly anticipated is stillborn, what they often want more than anything is more time with their baby. A special bassinet called a CuddleCot extends the amount of time that families can grieve with their child if they choose to.

Scarlet’s Mission, a non-profit dedicated to giving families of stillborn babies the gift of time, has donated a CuddleCot to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Women’s and Children’s Services Department, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC).

“Helping families who have lost an infant is the most difficult part of our jobs,” said Deb Mone, RNC, perinatal bereavement coordinator. “This gift is so very special to us because it helps us give our patients a very small comfort at what is often the most difficult time in their lives.”

Named in honor of Scarlet Suzy McGonigal, born July 18, 2015, Scarlet’s Mission was founded by her mother Katie Irwin and father Jim McGonigal. The bassinet includes a cooling unit that allows families to spend extra time with their baby by regulating its temperature. The charity has placed seven CuddleCots in New England hospitals.

People in the News

SVMC ExpressCare Practice in Bennington Welcomes Family Nurse Practitioner Brooke McBride (likely to be picked up by end of day)
Mark Your Calendar!
Every other Tuesday, February 18-June 23rd, 6:00 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Swanton

Closes March 6, 4 p.m. with a community-focused conversation on mental health
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital

Thursday, March 19
Hilton Lake Champlain, Burlington

Mon, March 23, 2020

March 24, 2020, 6:30 p.m.
Burlington High School, Burlington

Wednesday, March 25
Hilton DoubleTree, Burlington