Vermont Update 3-29-21
This week, the VNAs of Vermont is publishing our annual Crossover Report. Every year, mid-March marks a critical juncture in the legislative process known as Crossover. Generally, bills that haven’t made it out of committee by crossover are unlikely to made it over the legislative finish line. There are procedures that allow for exceptions, but in general, by the end of March we have a very good sense of where our priorities stand. This year, policy bills had to be out of committee by March 12 and the budget was slated for completion by House Appropriations by March 19. As is often the case, the committee needed a little more time to be sure all the details were nailed down and finalized their work last Monday.
The VNAs of Vermont is pleased to report that several important workforce proposals in the form of nurse scholarships and tuition breaks are on their way to the Senate. In addition, the budget includes a small increase for the Choices for Care program. H. 153, a bill that would establish a rate schedule for the program (though it won’t guarantee increases), also cleared the House.
Despite these positive steps, I remain deeply concerned about the Choices for Care program. In my view, bolder action is needed to ensure that older and disabled Vermonters can continue to receive long-term care services at home. As I testified earlier in the session, we estimate that home health and hospice agencies are spending at least 27% more to provide Choices for Care services than they are being paid by the program. Increases in the range of 2%— while most certainly a big improvement over the years when we receive no increase at all—are simply not keeping up with wage growth. The challenge of recruiting and retaining enough caregivers to provide Choices for Care services remains an existential threat to the program.
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ARPA The recently-passed federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides a substantial opportunity to support the Choices for Care program. It provides for a 10-point bump in the federal matching rate…