Legislative Update
by Devon Green
Vice President of Government Relations

On Thursday, the legislature announced its plans for the rest of the year. They will pass a budget for the first quarter of FY21 and “ready-to-pass” bills by June 26th. Lawmakers will then spend the remainder of June passing bills that appropriate Coronavirus Relief Funds, before recessing for July and the first half of August. The Legislature will return in mid-August to pass a budget for the remainder of FY21. Since the Legislature is recessing, and not adjourning, existing bills may be acted upon when the Legislature returns.

Last Week
Coronavirus Relief Fund:  After Speaker Johnson allocated an initial tranche of $200 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to health care and human services priorities, the  House Health Care  and  Human Services Committees  proposed $153 million package to establish the Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program. This needs-based grant program, administered by AHS, will help cover the increased costs and lost revenue of COVID-19 to Vermont’s health care system. The House Health Care Committee’s package also includes $9 million to fund existing population health programs, such as telehealth and care management. One million is allotted towards addressing health disparities related to COVID-19 and another million towards mental health.

PA Licensure:  The House passed  S.128 , the PA licensure bill, with a some small technical changes. It heads to the Senate for concurrence on the amendment and then will make its way to the governor’s desk.

Miscellaneous Health Care Bill:  The House passed  H.960 , a bill that requires commercial insurance companies to identify and eliminate prior authorization requirements that have no tangible benefit and requires commercial insurers to establish a “gold card” pilot program for 2022 that would exempt certain prior authorization programs for providers. It also gives the Green Mountain Care Board oversight of the Brattleboro Retreat’s budget.

This Week
Coronavirus Relief Funds:  The Appropriations Committee will be working quickly to finalize the House’s proposal for Coronavirus Relief Funds, including the $153 million for the Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program.
In the News
Pandemic tests Vermont health care reform efforts

Vermont over the past several years has been overhauling its health care system, moving from the traditional fee-for-service system to what's called an all-payer model. Even as the pandemic has punched a hole in hospital budgets, the COVID response is putting a new emphasis on the reform efforts.

Race, COVID-19 And Health Disparities in Vermont.

Nationwide, people of color have tested positive for COVID-19 at higher rates than white people and experienced worse outcomes from the disease.
This trend is as evident in Vermont as anywhere, and has been bolstered by a recent outbreak of the disease in Winooski. There, according to Seven Days, at least 31 of 34 new cases are black or Asian people.
While nonwhite Vermonters are just 5.9% of the state’s population, they are 9.2% of Vermont's COVID cases, according to the state’s Department of Health. Experts say social and systemic racism, economic inequality and inadequate public outreach are all factors driving the disparities.

Five Coronavirus Treatments In Development

Right now, there is only one drug shown by rigorous scientific testing to be helpful for treating COVID-19. That drug is the antiviral medication called remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences. But remdesivir's proven benefits  are modest : reducing hospital stays from 15 to 11 days.
So there's an urgent need for better therapies. The good news is that there are some on the horizon. Some are being tested now, some will be begin testing soon, and others are in the beginning of the pipeline.
NVRH VP publishes in prestigious public health journal
Vermont Business Magazine

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) is excited to announce that VP Marketing and Community Health Improvement Laural Ruggles has published “Frameworks for Community Impact - Community Case Study” in Frontiers in Public Health, a multidisciplinary open-access journal that publishes rigorously peer-reviewed research on June 2, 2020.

The journal plays an important part in the work of academics, clinicians, policymakers and researchers worldwide.

Ruggles’ article outlines how a community health needs assessment ignited a change in the way community partners worked together, aligned strategies, and overcame barriers to create regional system change to improve health. It also illustrates how NVRH has used community benefit dollars to accelerate action at the community level.
Vermonter Shares Story About Working on the Front lines in NYC
My Champlain Valley

Born and raised in Vermont, Captain Pete Peck is a pharmacist with the Army Medical Corps and at Springfield Hospital in Vermont.A few months ago, he got a call from the army to travel to New York City and assist with the pandemic. Peck said he did see it as a possibility, and he knew he wanted to do all he could to help.
“It’s overwhelming the sheer size of the operation, but also humbling to think that you can make a difference and you know leave your local community and go out and help others,” said Peck.
On Wednesday, Captain Peck explained that this was not a normal mobilization for the army reserves.

Good genes, great care and faith - man, 93, survives COVID-19
Bennington Banner

COVID-19 has made some people feel the sickest they've ever been: running a high fever with chills, along with headaches, fatigue, coughing, vomiting and trouble breathing. Jim Buccolo remembers having only a light fever and some coughing. He thought he just had a cold.

If he hadn't tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the 93-year-old Bennington County resident wouldn't have known he'd contracted the disease that has stricken millions of people, causing fear and anxiety worldwide.

"It was really very subdued," Buccolo said of his symptoms. "I didn't experience some of the trauma that some people did."

In the News