Policy Update: March 18, 2019
In the Statehouse, policy committees raced to finish up their work on policy bills that will head to the the floors of the House and Senate this week. This is an annual mid-session scramble to meet the “crossover” deadline set by House and Senate leaders. Policy committees in one body of the legislature must vote on bills by this date if they’re to be considered by the other body during the session. The policy bills of greatest interest to the VNAs of Vermont passed weeks ago. At this juncture, our focus is on the budget, which will head to the floor in another week. An increase for home health and hospice agencies, including for the Choices for Care program, is under consideration. We strongly support an increase. As I said in my testimony to the House Appropriations Committee a few weeks ago, there is never going to be a year where costs – salaries, wages, benefits, mileage – aren’t going up. Policymakers must protect vulnerable Vermonters by funding the programs that serve them.
Worrisome news has come out of Washington over the last few weeks. The Trump Administration has proposed both Medicaid and Medicare cuts to home health agencies. While the Administration’s budget is unlikely to become law given the current configuration of Congress, it’s a reflection of their priorities and provides insight into how the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services will use whatever payment authority is authorized by Congress. For the first time since 2014, MEDPAC has proposed a cut to hospice payments; the most recent report recommends a 2 percent cut. Click here for a statement from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization on the report. We will work closely with our federal partners to oppose all of these cuts.