Devon Green, VP of Government Relations, Vermont Association of Hospitals & Health Systems Last week continued to be a mix of learning, introductions and policy initiatives, so let’s dive right in.
Workforce: VAHHS testified in front of the House Commerce Committee about two workforce initiatives passed last year—$5/hour preceptor pay for Critical Access Hospitals and funding for pipeline programs at health care organizations. The Agency of Human Services (AHS) was unable to disburse funding for either program due to federal restrictions and lack of staffing. VAHHS supports the Budget Adjustment Act’s language that would expand the preceptor pay beyond Critical Access Hospitals and provide flexibility for more wraparound services for pipeline programs. Our only concern is that the funding comes from the retention bonus program, and it is unclear how much will be dedicated to preceptor pay and pipeline programs. In addition to retention, Vermont must invest in future health care providers.
Health care reform: The Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) presented an update on health care reform efforts on which they are collaborating with AHS. They hope to announce a consultant for the hospital transformation work by the end of January. Meanwhile, the GMCB and AHS will continue to work with stakeholders and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) on payment reform until the end of 2023.
Mental health: The House Health Care committee recommended including $9.25 million in the Budget Adjustment Act to fund inpatient psychiatric beds for adolescents. The Brattleboro Retreat also testified about their latest innovations, including flexible bed designations to respond to emergent needs, their transportation partnership with Rescue Inc. and a telepsych pilot program with Rutland Regional Medical Center. With initial support from AHS, they have also been able to bring on contracted providers that allow the Retreat to reach a census of nearly 100 patients. Hospitals have reported a big improvement to patient flow due to these efforts.
Provider protections: The House Judiciary Committee began hearing testimony on H.89, a “shield bill” that would protect health care providers who offer reproductive and gender affirming care from civil or criminal liability under other state’s laws. VAHHS supports protections for health care providers.
Post-acute and long term care: The Administration is proposing a $3 million increase for home health rates and $17.7 million for nursing home inflation in its FY 2024 budget.
Green Mountain Care Board: Owen Foster, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, introduced himself to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The GMCB’s areas of focus will be hospital sustainability, regulatory process refinement, All-Payer Model negotiations, access to primary care and affordability.