Legislative Update
by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

Last Week

Resuming Non-Urgent Care:  On Friday, Governor Scott announced that hospitals may resume inpatient procedures under the  guidance  released by the Vermont Department of Health. He also announced that dentistry and mental health and substance abuse counseling may resume as well.  

Budget:  The House Appropriations Committee began developing a budget for the first three months of FY ‘21. The Administration has proposed an 8 percent reduction from FY20 spending. The legislature must pass a budget before the current fiscal year ends on June 30th.

Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact:  The Senate passed  S.125 , which would have Vermont adopt and enter into the into the interstate Nurse Licensure Compact. The Rural Health Services Task Force recommended passing this bill in order to improve Vermont’s health care workforce deficit. The bill now heads over to the House.  

Ban on Genetic Discrimination:  The Senate also passed  S.197 , which bans employers and insurers from discrimination on the basis of genetic test results, removing one of the barriers many people encounter in determining whether or not to undergo genetic testing for medical reasons.  

Next Week

Hospital Update on COVID-19:  VAHHS will be providing an update to the health care committees on the hospital system’s financial status and response to COVID-19.  

PA Licensure:  House Health Care will likely vote on  S.128 , requirements for physician assistant licensure, which would eliminate the supervisory role of physicians over PAs, including the strict liability physicians currently have for PAs. It would replace the supervision requirement with a physician’s agreement. 
In the News
New normal for medicine emerges as hospitals return to elective surgeries, non-COVID work
ABC News

As the nation moves towards recovery and reopening, one emerging reality in the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak is that the American health care system will see its own new normal in the coming weeks and months, according to experts and doctors.

Strapped for cash and some protective equipment, and forced to re-write protocols to better fortify against the contagious spread of COVID-19, doctors’ offices and hospitals across the country are beginning to rethink their approach to personal care -- from an increase in telemedicine and widespread coronavirus testing for patients, to the complex math about which procedures should go ahead and how.
Vermont Air National Guard salutes hospital workers with flyover

Front-line workers across Vermont were honored with a supersonic salute on Friday.

A formation of F-35 fighter jets from the Vermont Air Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing lapped the state in the early afternoon, soaring over 16 hospitals throughout the trip.

The flyover was organized by the group as a tribute to honor front-line COVID-19 responders and essential workers, and was met with enthusiasm at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Thomas Rounds, the hospital's emergency department director and a 20-year Navy veteran, stood outside in his service dress whites as the jets completed the first leg of their 300-mile flight.
More COVID-19 Pop-Up Test Sites Open for
Asymptomatic Vermonters
Vermont Department of Health

The Vermont Department of Health is opening nearly two dozen additional pop-up sites to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the virus.

The specimen collection sites are located throughout the state. Vermonters can find a list of the sites and make an appointment to be tested at humanresources.vermont.gov/popups (link is external), or by calling 2-1-1 or 802-828-2828. All clinics operate from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The pop-up sites are for asymptomatic Vermonters to find out if they currently have a COVID-19 infection. Health officials especially encourage health care workers, first responders, child care providers currently serving essential workers, and people returning to Vermont – such as college students, people who winter out of state and second home owners, to sign up. The sites are organized and led by the department’s local health offices with support from EMS units and the Vermont National Guard.

Laboratory teams have tested more than 3,030 samples to date from pop-up sites alone as part of Governor Phil Scott’s efforts to expand COVID-19 testing. Results are reported at healthvermont.gov/covid19.
Scott Reopens More Businesses, Cancels Fairs and Festivals
Seven Days

Vermont officials on Friday announced further steps to reopen the state's economy and health care system as part of the ongoing coronavirus recovery efforts.

But the good news was tempered by Gov. Phil Scott's order that all fairs and festivals be canceled "until further notice." Shortly after the governor's announcement, the Champlain Valley Exposition said it would cancel its annual 10-day fair, held each August in Essex Junction.

"This will be the first time in the history of the Champlain Valley Exposition that the Champlain Valley Fair will not occur," the organization said in a statement.

Scott, who outlined the latest turns of his metaphorical spigot during his regular press briefing Friday, said his goal is to reopen most businesses to 25 percent capacity by June 1.

"Then we can get on a path to all moving together in a very systematic way," he said.

New data shows Covid-19 racial disparities in Vermont

Racial justice advocates are calling for more support for people of color in Vermont after new data revealed that black and Hispanic people are testing positive for Covid-19 at a disproportionately high rate.

Black Vermonters are testing positive for Covid-19 at the highest rate in the state of any racial group, according to statistics on the demographics impacted by the coronavirus compiled by the Vermont Department of Health. The report, which the state plans to update every Friday, looks at the 932 cases of the new coronavirus identified in Vermont from March 5, when the outbreak began in Vermont, through May 14.

The new data prompted advocates to ask lawmakers and Gov. Phil Scott to take steps to address the disparities, including creating a task force to focus on supporting people of color in the state.

According to new data released by the Vermont Department of Health, 3% of people who tested positive for the virus through May 14 were black. The most recent Census demographic data shows that black Vermonters make up 1.5% of the state’s population.

Feeling blessed: Woman survives COVID-19
The Brattleboro Reformer

"I am doing remarkably well," said 88-year-old Audrey Ericson, recovering in her home from a bout with COVID-19. "For several days though, it was obvious I wasn't doing very well."

Ericson, who lives with her 61-year-old son, Peter, said at first she didn't think she was infected with the virus.

"I was sure it was something else," said Ericson. "I'd been taking very good care of myself. Isolating myself. I haven't even been out of the house."

When her symptoms persisted, Ericson's daughter, Karen Guyette, drove her to the Emergency Department at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

"I was feeling terrible, but I had no symptoms at that point, at least the ones they tell you to look for," she said.

Coronavirus survival story: 43 days in the hospital

A man from Wallingford is now called a coronavirus survivor after being on a ventilator for more than three weeks. Our Olivia Lyons brings you his story.

Paulin Goulet, 67, left the Rutland Regional Medical Center after being on a ventilator for 24 days.

"We were worried," his son Stephane Goulet said. "There were some nights where we didn't think he was going to come home."

Paulin was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March and stayed in the hospital for 43 days. Now, he's at a rehab facility receiving physical therapy. His son Stephane and daughter Stacey say he's doing really well. They attribute that to the support he received at the hospital and his stubborn ways.

"I remember turning on the news... they were talking about how the hospitals were suffering in and out, and people on ventilators last 14 days and it scared me because Dad was on it for 12 days on that day and I was horrified," Stacey said. "And he kept going. Twenty-four days he finally got off the ventilator."

May is Mental Health Awareness Month
VT World

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and many people are experiencing greater than usual stresses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) wants to take a moment to reinforce the protections Vermont law provides to healthcare consumers seeking access to mental health and substance use disorder services.

“These are difficult times for all of us,” said Commissioner Michael Pieciak. “Many families are facing economic uncertainty and we all face anxiety about our own health and the health of our loved ones. I urge all Vermonters to pay attention to both their mental and physical well-being and be aware that Vermont law protects their ability to access mental health and substance disorder services.”

In 1998, Vermont implemented one of the most comprehensive mental health parity laws in the nation. The goal was to eliminate barriers to the treatment of mental health and substance use disorder conditions and to ensure that health insurance plans cover these conditions on the same terms and to the same extent that they cover other medical conditions.

Hospitals seek to reboot care — and draw patients — post-Covid

take-out food order in Lamoille County may come with an unexpected message: Go see your doctor.

Copley Hospital and four other health care organizations in the area launched a “Don’t put your health on hold,” campaign, putting ads in local newspapers, hanging posters and distributing buttons and flyers — including to local restaurants to place in take-out orders, according to CEO Joe Woodin.

On May 4, after seven weeks of canceled appointments and elective procedures, Gov. Phil Scott permitted hospitals to resume elective procedures. Facilities are not yet allowed to offer surgeries that require patients to spend the night in the hospital.

But as Copley, and other hospitals across the state, resume services, they’re facing a new challenge: Getting patients through their doors.

Hospitals are adapting to a new approach to health care in the wake of Covid-19, with down-sized waiting rooms, social distancing, and temperature checks at the door. They’re also assuring patients that it’s safe to come to the doctor so they can make headway in reducing the backlog of appointments that were postponed during the pandemic.