Legislative Update: Home Health Worker Safety Measure Passes

We are quickly approaching the end of the 2024 legislative session. This year has been a busy one for VNAs of Vermont! Here’s what we’re watching as legislators work towards adjournment.

Critical Funding for Home Health and Long-Term Care

As of today, both the House and Senate have passed budgets.

Both versions include a rate increase to bring skilled home health Medicaid rates to 100% of Medicare LUPA, and a directive for the Department of Vermont Health Access to develop a methodology to compare Medicaid home health rates to full Medicare. This rate increase is critical, at a time when home health and hospice agencies are facing significant financial challenges.

The Senate budget also includes a 3% rate increase for home-based Choices for Care and other long-term care services. We appreciate their support for Vermont’s system of long-term care, which needs investment to stabilize access to the services and supports Vermonters depend on as they age.

Next, both chambers will work in order to try and resolve differences between their respective budgets. VNAs of Vermont will be following closely as they consider a budget to put forward to the Governor.

Workplace Violence and Home Health Worker Safety

The Legislature has passed a bill that will give home health agencies (HHAs) the flexibility needed to keep staff safe and out of environments we know to be potentially dangerous. Today the full Senate voted to concur with the House version of the bill, which will next be messaged to the Governor.

S.189 gives HHAs new tools and flexibility to do their jobs keeping staff safe from workplace violence, by allowing them to deny a referral or refuse to send a staff member to a home for a patient who has already been discharged for safety reasons.

Discharging patients for safety is a rare occurrence that is highly regulated. When it happens it is important that HHAs not be required to send staff back out into the environment they know is unsafe. That’s where S.189 comes in.

We want to express our gratitude to the legislators who supported this important bill aimed at protecting Vermont's home health care workers from violence in the workplace.

Data Privacy and HIPAA

We are closely monitoring H.121, which creates new data privacy regulations. As a health care provider, Vermont’s home health and hospice agencies are already strictly regulated by HIPAA to protect the personal information of the people they serve.

While the version of H.121 passed by the House includes a ‘data-level’ exemption of the data already covered by HIPAA, alongside a coalition of health care associations VNAs of Vermont is seeking an entity-level exemption for health care providers who must already meet the strict data protection requirements of HIPAA.

As always, we will keep you updated on the legislation impacting home health, hospice, and long-term care in Vermont! If you want a more in-depth look at the many bills VNAs of Vermont is following this year, you can read our Crossover Report, which covers the status of legislation as of the crossover date. Make sure to stay tuned, as we will also be issuing a final report on where these bills stand once the legislature has adjourned for the year!

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