Green: Money for health care and help for health care workers

by Devon Green, VAHHS Vice President of Government Relations …and, that’s a wrap! Despite its unprecedented nature, this session ended much like other sessions in the past—slowly, and then all at once. Legislators may come back in June to address the Governor’s veto of S.107, a bill concerning the confidentiality of certain juvenile records, and legislative leaders have reserved the right to bring back legislators in October. Otherwise, the next time we see the full legislative body, we will see actual bodies, real people instead of Zoom squares, as the legislature prepares to meet in person for the 2022 session.

Last Week

Budget: The House, Senate, and Governor all came together on H.439, the FY 22 state budget appropriating $7.35 billion, with $599 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated. The budget also identified spending of ARPA funds for future years, including $250 million for the health, well-being and recovery of Vermonters, workforce development and business support. Other items in the budget include:

  • Funding for one year of free tuition for critical occupations, including allied health programs at CCV and nursing programs at Vermont State Colleges

  • $2.27 million in funding to continue nursing and primary care scholarships

  • $3.9 million in Delivery System Reform investments to the All-Payer Accountable Care Organization Model, including health information technology projects and the Longitudinal Care Home Health Program

  • Health care coverage for pregnant individuals and children who do not qualify for Medicaid due to immigration status

  • $600,000 for a mental health mobile crisis unit pilot in Rutland

  • Prohibition on pharmacy benefit managers from requiring certain reporting on 340B prescription drugs or restricting access to a pharmacy network or change reimbursement rates based on a pharmacy’s participation in the 340B program

  • Extension of the Health Care Workforce Strategic Plan to December 1, 2021

  • Task Force on Affordable, Accessible Health Care to present recommendations by December 1, 2021 on expanding access to affordable health care in Vermont

Nurse Licensure Compact: S.48, which allows Vermont to enter the Nurse Licensure Compact, passed the House and the Senate. VAHHS thanks the legislators who voted in favor of this important part of health care workforce development.

Forensic Care Working Group: The House passed an amended version of S.3 which creates a working group to examine gaps in the current mental health and criminal justice system to improve public safety and address treatment needs for those who are incompetent to stand trial or adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity.

Racism as a public health emergency: The Senate voted in favor of J.R.H. 6, a resolution previously passed by the House, declaring racism a public health emergency in Vermont and resolving to eradicate systemic racism throughout the state.

Next Week

We’ll have a session wrap-up with a summary of all the bills that have passed. In the meantime, go out and get some sun!