Vermont Medical Society - Rounds Newsletter
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Everything Vermont's physicians need to know this week

VMS creates new Physician Assistant membership category 
During its November 5th business meeting, members of the Vermont Medical Society voted to amend its by-laws by creating a new membership category of “Physician Assistant Member.” While Physician Assistants will not be able to vote or hold office, the new PA members will be encouraged to attend and participate in all meetings and policy discussions and receive all other benefits of VMS membership.  The VMS membership dues for PAs are half of the amount charged to physicians.

Significant change to DEA registration renewal announced
Through a notice on its website, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently announced significant changes to its registration renewal process. Effective Jan. 1, 2017, the DEA is eliminating the informal grace period. More »

Earned Sick Leave Notice Must Be Posted by Jan. 1, 2017
Vermont’s Earned Sick Time law takes effect on January 1, 2017.  The Vermont Department of Labor recently published its Earned Sick Time Act – Notice of Employee Rights poster.  A copy of the poster may be obtained here.  The Vermont Department of Labor has also published its answers to frequently asked questions about the law, available here.  On or before January 1, 2017, all employers with operations in Vermont should:

  • Post the Earned Sick Time Notice at your business in a place conspicuous to employees.
  • Adopt a compliant Earned Sick Time policy or ensure your existing paid time off policy (vacation, CTO, ETO or otherwise) complies with the law.
  • Provide a copy of any new or revised policy to existing employees, and provide a copy of the policy to all new hires thereafter.

VMS thanks Alexandra Clauss, Esq., of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer, for sharing this update.  She can be reached at

In The News is a concise digest of health care news in Vermont and the nation.  VMS is not responsible for the content of the articles.


VTDIGGER: Hospital, housing trust partner to convert motel to housing

The Champlain Housing Trust and the University of Vermont Medical Center are partnering to purchase and convert the Bel Aire motel on Shelburne Road into housing for the chronically homeless, the organizations announced Friday.  The medical center will pay $1.6 million to purchase and renovate the motel on the edge of downtown Burlington into eight apartments using excess revenue taken in by the hospital in 2015. Regulators approved the hospital’s plan to spend $12 million in excess revenue on partnerships with community groups.  The apartments will house 12 people with high health needs who are either homeless or in substandard housing and who would be unlikely to recuperate on the street, in a tent or in their current living situation. More »

VTDIGGER: Hospital administrator pay shows upward trend 
Chief executive officers at Vermont hospitals made an average of $548,000 in salary and benefits in 2014, a 6.4 percent increase over the year before.  The 40 highest-paid hospital administrators in the state made at least $472,000 in 2014, compared with $391,000 in 2013, a signal that midlevel administrators are making more money. More » 

VTDIGGER: Auditor: Price transparency still lacking in Vermont health care
The Vermont State Auditor’s office says the state has more work to do to make sure consumers know how much their health care services cost before they purchase them.  In a non-audit report Doug Hoffer’s staff released Monday, the office said that consumers often cannot find out the cost of health services, especially if they’re not proficient with technology.  In contrast, the government-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs pay fixed prices for services and do not have to negotiate down prices. People without insurance have virtually no bargaining power to negotiate the price of a service, and must rely on charity care policies that the hospital sets rules for internally. More » 

VTDIGGER: Advisory board urges expanded access to hepatitis C drugs 
An advisory board says the state should make it easier for Vermont’s Medicaid patients to get access to expensive prescription drugs that treat hepatitis C.  The Medicaid Drug Utilization Review Board, an advisory panel, voted Dec. 6 to lift certain restrictions that make it harder or impossible for some Medicaid patients with the disease to get specialty drugs.  The Department of Vermont Health Access, which administers Medicaid, will need to decide whether to accept the board’s changes. More » 


WASHINGTON POST: There’s one big thing that can help poor kids get jobs 50 years later
It has been more than five decades since President Johnson created Medicaid, but researchers are only now beginning to understand how consequential the program has been for the lives of the American poor.  That is because Medicaid's effects on the children who benefited have persisted long into adulthood. Fifty years after Medicaid became available, children who received health insurance through the program are healthier, living longer and working more, according to a working paper published this week by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research. More » 

THE HILL: Health officials: Zika no longer actively spreading in Florida
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday announced his state is officially cleared of any active zones of Zika virus transmission, ending a four-month public health threat.  Miami Beach, a popular tourist destination, was the last remaining region of Florida considered an active zone of transmission for Zika. That final 1.5-mile stretch of the city is now cleared, which Scott said he hopes will reopen the flow of visitors. More »  

PEW TRUSTS: How Disease Rates Vary by State - and What States Can Do About It
Health disparities based on race, income and gender tend to draw more notice, but variations related to where people live are attracting the attention of public health officials, who are using the information to craft more-targeted policies. As the data become more precise, health policy experts believe interventions to combat geographic disparities will become even more effective.  The increasing interest comes amid a growing recognition that people’s health depends as much on geographic factors such as recreation, transportation, crime and unemployment as it does on what takes place in doctor’s offices or hospitals. More »  

THE HILL: Study: 52M with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage without ObamaCare
A new study finds that 27 percent of adults under 65 have pre-existing health conditions that could lead to them being denied coverage if ObamaCare were repealed.  ObamaCare banned insurance companies from rejecting people because of their pre-existing health conditions, but the study released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that if pre-ObamaCare rules returned, 52 million Americans could be denied coverage.  The study notes that the vast majority of these 52 million people have coverage through their employers or government programs such as Medicaid, but if they ever lost that coverage and tried to apply on their own in the individual market, they could be denied a new plan. More » 

MODERN HEALTHCARE: Patient safety efforts saved $28 billion over five years
Efforts to make hospitals safer for patients are paying off, preventing 3.1 million harmful hospital-acquired conditions and the deaths of some 125,000 people, according to an HHS report released Monday. Those improvements saved close to $28 billion in healthcare costs from 2010 through 2015.  Healthcare leaders touted this progress as a direct result of policies laid out in the Affordable Care Act, public-private partnerships such as the Partnership for Patients, which launched in 2011, and other quality improvement initiatives to target hospital-acquired conditions. More » 

NY TIMES: One Weight-Loss Approach Fits All? No, Not Even Close
Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of nutrition at Harvard, likes to challenge his audience when he gives lectures on obesity.  “If you want to make a great discovery,” he tells them, figure out this: Why do some people lose 50 pounds on a diet while others on the same diet gain a few pounds?  Dr. Sacks’s challenge is a question at the center of obesity research today. Two people can have the same amount of excess weight, they can be the same age, the same socioeconomic class, the same race, the same gender. And yet a treatment that works for one will do nothing for the other.  The problem, researchers say, is that obesity and its precursor - being overweight - are not one disease but instead, like cancer, they are many. More » 

MODERN HEALTCHARE: VA finalizes rule that expands scope of nurse practice
The Veteran Affairs Department has finalized a rule that will allow advanced-practice registered nurses to practice to their full authority at VA facilities, however the new permission will not expand to certified registered nurse anesthetists following lobbying from anesthesiologists.  About half of states have full scope of practice laws for nurse practitioners.  The VA believes the rule will make it easier for veterans to be seen by medical professionals by increasing the number of available primary-care providers. The new policy is effective Jan. 14, 2017. More »  

THE HILL: Obama administration scraps controversial drug pricing proposal
The Obama administration announced Thursday night that it is calling off a controversial initiative to fight high drug prices.  The administration is essentially admitting defeat in the battle over its proposed changes to how Medicare pays for drugs. “After considering comments, CMS will not finalize the Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model during this Administration,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  The proposal came from an innovation center within CMS that was created by ObamaCare and has put forward a range of proposals to make Medicare payments more efficient.  The administration's drug pricing proposal had targeted a system where Medicare currently pays doctors the average price of a drug plus 6 percent. More » 

NY TIMES: G.O.P. Plans to Replace Health Care Law With ‘Universal Access.’
House Republicans, responding to criticism that repealing the Affordable Care Act would leave millions without health insurance, said on Thursday that their goal in replacing President Obama’s health law was to guarantee “universal access” to health care and coverage, not necessarily to ensure that everyone actually has insurance.  In defending the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and advocacy groups have focused on the 20 million people covered by the law, which has pushed the percentage of Americans without health insurance to record lows. The American Medical Association recently said that “any new reform proposal should not cause individuals currently covered to become uninsured.”  But House Republicans, preparing for a rapid legislative strike on the law next month, emphasize a different measure of success.  “Our goal here is to make sure that everybody can buy coverage or find coverage if they choose to,” a House leadership aide told journalists on the condition of anonymity at a health care briefing organized by Republican leaders. More » 

Wednesday Webinar
Jan. 18th
12 noon to 1 p.m.
Update on the Quality Payment Program: What you need to know to be successful
More »

Running on Empty?
Jan. 25
12 noon to 1 p.m.
MMS course: Physicians' path to enjoying life and medicine
More »

2017 Annual Meeting
November 3-4, 2017
Woodstock Inn
Woodstock, Vt. 

Physician Compare undergoes update and redesign
As part of its work to make health care quality information more transparent and understandable for consumers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that it is adding new quality data and other information to the Physician Compare website. More » 

Sign up for the new CMS Quality Payment Program listserv
The listserv will provide news and updates on new resources and website updates, upcoming milestones and deadlines, and CMS trainings and webinars. More »

Vermont Practitioner Health Program is available to help
Are you or one of your colleague’s struggling with substance abuse issues? The VMS-administered Vermont Practitioner Health Program (VPHP) can help.  Click here for more information, or if you’d like to have VPHP present at a local staff meeting.

New England QIN-QIO launches new MACRA website
Do you need help navigating CMS’ quality payment program? Click here for help. Tools and info include a readiness assessment, the MIPS calculator, help desk, webinars and more. 

© Vermont Medical Society 2016
(802) 223-7898
Copyright © 2016 Vermont Medical Society, All rights reserved.

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