Legislative Update – April 13, 2017

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Apr 13, 2017 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Progress on My Bill Requiring Health Insurance Coverage for Acupuncture

Vermont’s opiate crisis continues to be one of my priorities. The legislature has heard from patients, doctors and other professionals about the need to use alternatives to opiates to treat chronic pain. While acupuncture is a popular alternative, I heard from many constituents that it is not widely covered by health insurance and people don’t have affordable access to this effective treatment. To respond, I introduced legislation that would require that health insurers in Vermont cover acupuncture to treat chronic pain.

I am happy to report that many of the measures that the legislature enacted to address the opiate crisis have started to move us toward universal access to acupuncture. The Vermont Health Department updated the Rules Governing the Prescribing of Opiates. In those rules, before prescribing opiates to treat chronic pain, health care providers are required to consider alternatives, including acupuncture. Also, Vermont’s Medicaid office has undertaken a pilot project to study the use of acupuncture for chronic pain for people in the Medicaid program. The project has been very popular. We expect to get the results in September 2017.

In response to the legislation that I introduced, the legislature asked Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont to evaluate whether and to what extent they should cover acupuncture to treat chronic pain. After some study and dialogue with licensed acupuncturists, Blue Cross Blue Shield recently announced that it is working toward an acupuncture benefit, hopefully for 2018 policies.

My Committee: Judiciary

H.492: racial justice reform. I am thrilled that we passed this bill. The Committee heard extensive testimony on the bill that establishes a Racial Justice Board to manage and oversee the implementation of racial justice reform and ensures statewide uniformity in the adoption of fair and impartial policing policies by all law enforcement agencies in Vermont. After extensive testimony, I decided that the best route forward is to have two different bills.  

The first bill, which will continue to be H.492, establishes the Racial Justice Board. The Board will be established in the Attorney General’s Office and have an advisory role. The members will be drawn from individuals across the state with diverse racial, ethnic, religious, age, sexual orientation, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds. It will review racial justice reform efforts across the state, including within the systems of education, labor and employment, housing, health care, economic development, and criminal and juvenile justice by monitoring the collection and publication of race-based data, recommending policies and training to address systemic implicit bias, and evaluating racial justice policies, practices, and results.

Among other responsibilities, it will make recommendations to the Criminal Justice Training Council and the Vermont Bar Association on model trainings and policies for law enforcement, judges, and correctional officers to recognize and address implicit bias and use of force in policing.

A separate Committee bill, H.523, addresses fair and impartial policing policies. It would amend 20 VSA 2366, related to such policies, by requiring all state, local, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies in Vermont to adopt the Criminal Justice Training Council model fair and impartial policing policy in its entirety. This would ensure uniformity among the law enforcement agencies. Currently, agencies may adopt only certain required parts of the policy, not all of the policy. In addition, the bill would require the Criminal Justice Training Council, in consultation with the Attorney General, to ensure that the model policy does not conflict with federal immigration law.

Reports from other Committees:

Government Operations

House Government Operations voted H.526 out of committee to update Vermont’s Notary Law. The current law was mostly written in the late 1700s. Vermont is the only state that fails to meet any of the best practices identified by the Property Records Industry Association for notarization of documents. The committee heard testimony about a number of problems with the current law and notary practices. The most compelling testimony came from an individual who lost his business through a quitclaim deed where an expert witness raised a number of questions about the notarial process.  

This bill is based on the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts. Several other states have adopted this uniform law and several more have introduced legislation to do so this year.

Human Services

The Human Services Committee has begun taking testimony on S.16, Expanding Patient Access to Medical Marijuana Registry. This bill proposes a number of changes to the law; it adds Crohn’s Disease, PTSD, and Parkinson’s to the list of medical conditions. It proposes to increase the number of dispensaries from 4 to 8. It changes the requirement that dispensaries operate as a non-profit allowing them to become for profit companies. Proving to be the most controversial is that it allows them to advertise.

Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife

H.233 – Forest Fragmentation

The committee has been taking testimony from all stakeholders involved with forestry in Vermont. As the general population increases, more of Vermont’s forest blocks are being broken up or fractured by this development. H.233 asks that any non-forestry development that triggers Act 250 jurisdiction would need to evaluate and mitigate, if necessary, effects on forest blocks and wildlife corridors.

S.75 – Controlling Nuisance Invasive Species

This issue is to better control the transfer of aquatic nuisance species between water bodies. The committee is zeroing in on language that will: require the cleaning of all vessels entering and leaving lakes, training for boat washer volunteers and lake hosts, and targeting limited resources to high use areas.

 

Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us828-2228 or 496-7667.