Our advocacy activity in the 2019 session is picking up as committee chairs are turning their attention to bills of interest to home health and hospice agencies. We are pleased to report that since our last newsletter, the Senate unanimously passed S.14, a five-year extension of the existing certificate of need moratorium on new home health agencies. Testimony has not yet been scheduled in the House.
A key Senate committee took more testimony on S.23, the minimum wage bill that is expected to emerge from the committee shortly. The VNAs of Vermont are strong supporters of wage increases for our entry-level employees; we will continue to advocate for a Medicaid rate increase in the state budget to fund wage increases so that older Vermonters can receive the long-term care services they need to remain independent at home.
This week, the Senate Finance Committee will take up S.27, a bill that preserves the home health provider tax. VNAs of Vermont Executive Director Jill Mazza Olson is slated to testify before the committee on Wednesday. In SFY2018, home health agencies paid $5.2 million in provider taxes. Under current law, the provider tax bill expires on June 30, 2019. S.27 eliminates the sunset, thus reinstating the tax. The provider tax draws down a federal match approximately equal to the amount of tax paid by agencies. This revenue helps support the Medicaid program. While Vermont’s agencies supported the provider tax at its inception as a mechanism to draw down additional federal revenue, over time the tax has become a significant cost burden. Since the tax was first levied on agencies, Medicaid rates have grown well below the rate of inflation and Medicare rates have been cut substantially.