Mid-May 2018 Newsletter
Executive Director's Message
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved a $5.85 billion budget for SFY2019. I'm pleased to report that ----      like the House budget ----       the Senate budget bill includes a 2 percent increase for the home health and hospice services our members provide, and a 2 percent increase for the long-term care services provided by our members and other community partners under the Choices for Care program. 
Under normal circumstances, passage of the Senate version of the budget would signal the beginning of the end of the legislative session. House and Senate conferees would come to agreement on a final budget, send that back to the floors of both bodies and adjourn. The Statehouse always feels tense and frenetic during these final few weeks as final decisions are made about spending and policy. But most observers agree that the 2018 session stands out from the usual. 
Wrangling between the Administration and legislative leaders over the education finance bill has led both sides to make some unusual pronouncements. Legislative leaders have announced that they may buck several decades of custom by not pre-scheduling a veto session in June to consider any Gubernatorial vetoes. For various reasons, if this were to happen, it would almost certainly force the Governor to convene a special session if he vetoes the education bill or the major money bills. In a veto session, lawmakers are limited to considering only those bills that are vetoed. A special session is wide open ----    lawmakers could write new bills on any topic they choose.  

Meanwhile, the Governor has publicly suggested that lawmakers extend the session until mid-June to give them time to consider the Administration's education proposal. The session hasn't been prolonged to June in nearly two decades. 
The final outcome remains uncertain, but most observers expect another tense week under the golden dome. 

Jill Mazza Olson
Executive Director
Vermont Update
As noted above, last week the Senate gave its unanimous approval to a $5.85 billion budget for SFY2019. The budget includes a two percent increase for home health and hospice agencies and other community providers, funding for the Brattleboro Retreat to add 12 inpatient mental health beds, and $4.3 million to community mental health centers to increase compensation for clinical and direct service staff.  For a more comprehensive list of highlights from the Senate budget, click here.
Charitable Contributions
The Senate Finance Committee stripped a provision from H.911, the personal income and education finance bill, that would have discouraged charitable giving by large donors. This had significant negative implications for many non-profit organizations, including home health and hospice agencies. Committee members explicitly referenced concerns about the impact on organizations like VNAs during committee debate on the provision.  
Minimum Wage and Paid Family Leave
Two significant bills that impact employees will be on the floor of the House and Senate this week. The House will take up S.40, the minimum wage bill. After receiving the endorsement of the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, the bill moved to the House Appropriations Committee. That committee wrestled with a number of concerns related to raising the minimum wage, including the concerns raised by the VNAs of Vermont that a minimum wage increase must to be accompanied by a commensurate Medicaid increase for health care employers like home health agencies. In the end, the committee voted to send the bill to the House floor without a recommendation. That means the committee is denying the bill its endorsement, but allowing it to be debated by the full body, rather than stalling permanently in committee.  H.196, the paid family leave bill, met with a similar fate in the Senate. That bill imposes a new payroll tax on employees to fund paid family leave. It too heads to the floor, with support from the policy committee of jurisdiction, but without the endorsement of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Federal Update
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has proposed a draft  FY2019 Hospice Wage Index and Payment Rate Update and Hospice Quality Reporting Requirements .  Comments on the draft will be accepted through 5 p.m. on June 26, 2018. As per current law, the rule allows for a 1.8 percent increase in hospice payments. The rule also updates the hospice wage index and solicits comments on quality measures and interoperability of clinical information. The rule also makes changes to the routine public reporting of  hospice measures. Right now, the seven-component "Hospice Item Set" is reported. When a single "composite" measure that incorporates all seven items becomes available, that will be the most prominently displayed measure, though the component parts will still be available.

Upcoming Events
May 9  | 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Hosted by VNAs of Vermont

May 31 | 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Hosted by VNAs of Vermont
May 14 | 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Reardon Classroom at the UVM Robert Larner College of Medicine
Hosted by OneCare
In-person Meeting; Pizza and Salad provided

June 5, 12, 19 or 26  |  1 to 3 p.m.
Hosted by Home Care Association of New York State

Upcoming Conferences
VNAs of Vermont | www.vnavt.com | info@vnavt.org | 802-229-0579