Message from the Executive Director 5-7-19: The Countdown Begins
Last Friday marked the beginning of the end of the 2019 legislative session. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted their version of the budget bill out of committee, which usually means there are about two weeks to go – time enough for the full Senate to consider the bill on the floor, followed by a conference committee and final votes in both bodies. I’m pleased to report that Senate Appropriations supported the 2% Medicaid rate increase for home health, hospice and Choices for Care that was proposed by the House. While I always operate on the assumption that anything can happen until the bill is signed by the Governor, having the increase in both the House and Senate versions of the budget bill is a strong position at this point in the session.
The minimum wage bill remains our primary concern. At our urging, nearly two weeks ago, the House General Committee voted out a version of the S.23 that included an SFY20 increase for home health agencies and long-term care providers at a growth rate commensurate with the minimum wage growth rate. The estimate includes adjustments we helped develop to account for the fact that not all costs are wage-related costs and not all workers start at or around the minimum wage. Since then home health and hospice agencies and other provider groups have been urging members of the House Appropriations Committee to support Section 5 as passed by the House General Committee. We also support Section 6, which calls for a study of the impact on all providers going forward.
We expect the committee to make a final decision on the bill this week.
Meanwhile, it’s National Nurses Week and across the state, home health and hospice agencies are recognizing the nurses who care for Vermonters in their homes every day. We join our members in celebrating these professionals.
Jill Olson, Executive Director, VNAs of Vermont