The 2020 Legislative season begins.
 
The legislative session got off to a fast start last week. The minimum wage bill (S.23) and the paid family leave bill (H.107) were left unresolved at the end of the last session. Because 2020 is the second year of the biennium, legislators procedurally pick up where they left off in 2019. Already, both bills have been sent to conference committees, where differences between the House and Senate versions will be resolved. 
 
A detailed summary of the differences between the House and Senate versions of H.107 is available HERE
 
Meanwhile, the Joint Fiscal Office released a memo detailing its efforts to calculate the cost of increasing the minimum wage under S.23. The estimate has a number of significant limitations, many of which are described in the memo. Significant to home health:
  • The estimate hasn’t been “translated” into payments to providers through the existing reimbursement system – which means the estimate is significantly lower than it should be.
  • The estimate doesn’t account for the investments that agencies have already made in wages. VNAs of Vermont members are already spending 27 percent more to provide services in the Choices for Care program than they receive in payment – adding up to nearly $5 million in losses. 
  • The estimate doesn’t address recruitment and retention challenges. Home health agencies are competing for the Choices for Care workforce against employers who offer far less taxing work than personal care, often with better wages. Home health agencies are already experiencing a 50 percent turnover rate and a 25 percent vacancy rate in the Choices for Care programs. 
  • All home health agencies pay a 4.23 percent provider tax on every dollar in revenue for home health aides, personal care and homemaker services.
 
This week, several members of the Rural Health Services Task Force, including VNAs of Vermont Executive Director Jill Mazza Olson, will present the group’s report and recommendations to the House Health Care Committee. The group presented to the Green Mountain Care Board last week.