Extending Preventative Oral Health Coverage to Pregnant Medicaid Members will Save Money & Improve Birth Outcomes

Good oral health is more than just a nice smile. Having good oral health improves a person’s ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew and eat. Untreated tooth decay leads to needless pain and suffering; difficulty in speaking, chewing, and swallowing; and missed school days. Evidence also suggests that poor oral hygiene and health increases the risk of other health problems like diabetes, stroke, heart disease and bad pregnancy outcomes. 

Physical and nutritional changes that occur during pregnancy often lead to an increased risk of dental and gum problems from increased inflammatory response, loosened ligaments and increased acidity in the mouth. In addition, several studies have found a link between gum infection and poor birth outcomes, such as pre-term deliveries, lower birth weight and high blood pressure, which can lead to serious complications for both mom and the baby.

Many studies have found a relationship between periodontal disease and worse birth outcomes- but until now there hasn’t been a systematic overview of systematic reviews.  Now there is.  This new systematic overview found a clear relationship between periodontal disease and pre-term birth, low birth weight and preeclampsia (potentially dangerous high blood pressure during delivery).  The researchers reviewed 23 systematic reviews (including between 3 and 45 studies) and found an association between periodontal disease and preterm birth (relative risk, 1.6), low birth weight (LBW; relative risk, 1.7), preeclampsia (odds ratio, 2.2), and preterm low birth weight (relative risk 3.4).

The implications of the study are profound.  The estimated population-attributable fractions for periodontal disease has a mid-point of 16%, 18% for low birth weight, and 22% for preeclampsia.  Let’s look at what that means here in AZ.

In 2015, 7.2% of AZ live births were low birthweight (less than 2.5 kg).  With about 80,000 births a year, that means periodontal disease is potentially contributing to 13,000 pre-term births, 14,000 low birth weight babies, and 17,500 cases of preeclampsia. 

About half of AZ births are paid for by our Medicaid program- meaning periodontal disease may be contributing to 6,500 pre-term births, 7,000 low birth weight babies, and 8,750 cases of preeclampsia among AZ Medicaid members every year.  Now let’s look at what that might be costing.

An analysis by Truven Health Analytics a few years ago found that the average health care cost for a low birth weight baby during the first year of life is $55,393 compared with $5,085 for non-low birth weight babies. 

Putting the two estimates together suggests that the 7,000 pre-term babies potentially attributable to periodontal disease paid for by Medicaid would cost about $388M for the first year of life compared with only $35M for a similar number of non pre-term births.

Even with a robust oral health benefit for pregnant and strong utilization of the benefit among members, we’d never be able to eliminate periodontal disease among pregnant women- so it’s not fair to say that we’d save $350M annually if we were to implement an oral health benefit for pregnant Medicaid members.  But we can conclude that the costs associated with pre-term births attributable to periodontal disease are profoundly higher than the very modest cost of extending preventative oral health coverage to pregnant Medicaid members (likely significantly less than $1M/year).

Let’s do whatever we can to get comprehensive oral health coverage for pregnant Medicaid members   SB 1088 over the line this year and improve birth outcomes while reducing health care costs!  It’s being heard in the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday, March 20 starting at 2 pm.  We’re signed up in support of the initiative and I’ll be speaking briefly at the hearing.

You can help by contact the House Appropriations Committee members with the contact info at the end of this email and letting them know that investing in better oral health for pregnant Medicaid members will improve birth outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. The piece below is also posted on our website at: http://www.azpha.org/wills-blog

Member & email address

Regina E. Cobb rcobb@azleg.gov  

Diego Espinoza despinoza@azleg.gov

Charlene R. Fernandez cfernandez@azleg.gov

John Fillmore jfillmore@azleg.gov

Randall Friese rfriese@azleg.gov

John Kavanagh jkavanaugh@azleg.gov

Anthony T. Kern akern@azleg.gov

Aaron Lieberman alieberman@azleg.gov

Bret Roberts broberts@azleg.gov

Ben Toma btoma@azleg.gov

Michelle Udall mudall@azleg.gov

 

 

Arizona Supreme Court to Hear Important Medical Marijuana Edibles Case Tuesday

The AZ Supreme Court will be hearing the State v Jones Case (CR-18-0370-PR) on Tuesday, March, 19 2019 at 10 am at the ASU College of Law (111 E Taylor St., Phoenix).  The public can attend the hearing but if you go you better come a little early.

Back in 2013 a medical marijuana patient (who had a valid ADHS Medical Marijuana Card) was arrested for possession of a small amount of hashing (a preparation of marijuana) in Yavapai County.   Even though he had a valid card, he was convicted by a jury of a class 6 felony and spent nearly a year in jail. 

Mr. Jones appealed his conviction (State v. Jones).  Over the Summer, the AZ Court of Appeals in the case upheld the conviction, maintaining that the hashish that he possessed did not meet the definition of mixtures or preparations of marijuana as defined in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.  The hearing on Tuesday is the oral arguments in the appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court (the Court agreed to hear the case a few weeks ago).

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act provides qualified patients and dispensaries a number of legal protections under the voter approved  Act.  The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act definition of “Marijuana” in A.R.S. § 36-2801(8) differs from the Arizona Criminal Code’s definition of “Marijuana” in A.R.S. § 13-3401(19). In addition, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act makes a distinction between “Marijuana” and “Usable Marijuana” A.R.S. § 36-2801(8) and (15). The basics of the case consists of a profound difference of opinion between the prosecutor, who believes that edibles are not included in the definition of Marijuana in AMMA, and the defense, who makes the common sense argument that edibles are included.

If Mr. Jones’ appeal is successful, Arizona’s medical marijuana program will stand as is.  If it is unsuccessful, it’s reasonable to expect ADHS to completely overhaul their medical marijuana regulations and to impose a completely new regulatory scheme that would exclude extracts, resins, and edibles. Dispensaries and patients would no longer have access to these mixtures and preparations of the Cannabis plant, and dispensaries would be required to discard the instruments and equipment needed under the current regulatory scheme and overhaul their business models to one that focuses exclusively on marijuana flowers.

I filed a Declaration in the case on behalf of Mr. Jones (CR-18-0370-PR).  My Brief basically argues that hashish and other mixtures or preparations of marijuana are indeed covered under the voter approved statutory language and the regulations that we developed at the ADHS while I was Director.  I filed the Amicus as the former ADHS Director, not in my capacity as the Executive Director of AzPHA. 

Global Life Expectancy Improvements: You Can Thank Public Health

Life expectancy has increased rapidly in the last 200 years.  In 1800, life expectancy was around 30 years in all regions of the world.  In the early 19th century, life expectancy began to increase in industrializing countries while it stayed low in the rest of the world.

Since 1900 the global average life expectancy has more than doubled and is now approaching 70 years. Today, no country in the world has a lower life expectancy than the countries with the highest life expectancy in 1800. 

We can thank public health and improvements in then social determinants of health for most of the improvements.  Deaths from infectious diseases declined drastically in the US during the 20th century, mostly (but not exclusively) because of the development of vaccines and mass vaccination programs.  The development of antibiotics and improvements in housing and sanitation (environmental engineering) were also big factors. 

Public health interventions contributed to a sharp drop in infant and child mortality and a corresponding 30-year increase in life expectancy.  For example, in 1900 30% of all deaths occurred among kids less than 5.  In 1900, the three leading causes of death were diphteria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea and enteritis.

The big drivers reducing childhood deaths were universal vaccination programs, improvements in sanitation and hygiene, and antibiotics. Public Health professionals played a major role in each of these areas and our public health programs today rest on their shoulders. 

The CDC wrote a really good MMRW a few years ago called the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century 10 Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century that identified the following public health interventions as the drivers of the increases in life expectancy and health outcomes.  They are:

For a super interesting read about the improvements in global life expectancy visit the Our World In Data website.

Distracted Driving: A Clear and Present Danger

Distracted driving kills people just like impaired (drunk) driving does. Thousands of people each year are killed by distracted drivers.

There are a lot of ways people can be distracted while driving... it happens anytime you take your eyes off the road.   Any non-driving activity is a distraction that increases your chances of crashing and hurting or killing yourself, your passengers or other drivers.

Let's face the facts.  Our cell phones are an increasing part of our lives whether we want to admit it or not.  It seems perfectly natural to pick up your smart phone and check email or texts or other social media, like twitter.  Sometimes we do it while driving, like at a stop light - when the main problem is not seeing that the light has turned green and the driver behind you honks at you to get going.  You make it through the light but the guy behind you doesn't.  That's a harmless irritation.

But sometimes people check their phones while they're driving- and that's what's lethal. Sending or reading a text or checking or social media takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds.  At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded. 

 

The Data

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the risk of crashes increases significantly when:  dialing a cell phone (odds ratio 8); reaching for a cell phone (odds ratio 7); sending or receiving text messages (odds ratio 3.9); reaching for an object other than a cell phone (odds ratio 8), and eating (odds ratio 3).  In other words, a person dialing a cell phone while driving is at an 800% increased risk of crashing.

Does that sound safe to you?  Of course not, but chances are you've done it.  It's super dangerous, but most of us don't recognize how dangerous it is.

The National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA) tracks data regarding distracted driving…  allowing elected officials to have some data with which to make public policy regarding texting or social media and driving. 

So, we know that distracted driving is a clear and present danger.  The question is what should we do about it in terms of public policy?  Many states have made public policy decisions to reduce distracted driving from cell use- but AZ (as a state) has not been one of them so far.

Cell Use Laws

Currently, 46 states ban text messaging for all drivers.  Forty-one of those even have primary enforcement, meaning that law enforcement folks can pull you over for violating the distracted driving law.  

Of the 4 states without an all driver texting ban (Arizona is one of those 4), 2 at least prohibit texting by novice drivers.  In Arizona, the only restriction applies to school bus drivers and people under 18 in the first 6 months of their learner’s permit.  Montana doesn't even prohibit school bus drivers from texting. NTHSA tracks what the state laws are that address distracted driving.  You can visit their State Laws page to what the laws are in the various states.  

Over the years Arizona lawmakers have introduced bills that tried to put a little muscle into distracted driving laws, to no avail.  This year there’s increasing optimism that AZ might actually be able to pass a law that deals with distracted driving because of the makeup of the new legislature.  

SB 1165

There have been a few cell-use bills proposed this year.  We’re supporting SB 1165, sponsored by Senator Kate Brophy McGee because it’s the most comprehensive of the bills.  It’s progressing nicely- passing through the Senate by a vote of 20-10.  It basically prohibits using a hand-held cell phone while driving with some common-sense exemptions (for example if the person is using it hands free etc). 

Violations are a civil money penalty (no driving points) with the first offense being between $75- $150 and the 2nd offense between $150 and $250.  The bill would provide a state overlay so the cell phone use laws would no longer be different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Warnings would be given between now and January 1, 2020- with the citations coming after that.

Interested in adding your voice and learning more about how you can make a difference?  You could always join AZPHA and participate in our Public Policy Committee which continually tracks and advocates for bills like these that enhance public health in Arizona.

Interested in learning more about distracted driving generally?  Check our NTHSA's website on distracted driving.

March 17 Legislative Update

Legislative Update

It was a busy week especially in the House with the various bills that were advocating for and against (mostly for).  Here’s a run down on this week’s action and a forecast for next week.

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Bills that have passed one chamber and received a do pass committee recommendation in the sister chamber:

HB 2125 Child Care Subsidies (Udall) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed House 46-13.  Passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee 7-0-1. Rules Committee Next.

HB 2488 Veteran Suicide Annual Report (Lawrence) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed House 60-0. Passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee 7-0-1. Rules Committee Next.

SB 1165 Texting and Driving Prohibition (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed Senate 20-10. Passed the House Transportation Committee 5-1-1.  Rules Committee Next. 

SB 1088 Dental Care During Pregnancy (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 27-3.  Passed the House Health & Human Services Committee 8-1.  House Appropriations Committee Next.

SB 1211 Intermediate Care Facilities (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0. Passed the House Health & Human Services Committee 9-0.

SB 1089Telemedicine Insurance Coverage (Carter) – AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 30-0. Passed the House Health & Human Services Committee 9-0.

SB 1174 Tribal Area Health Education Center – AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 30-0. Passed the Senate Education Committee 13-0. Rules Committee Next.

SB 1085 Association Health Plans- AzPHA Position- Opposed

Passed the Senate 24-6.  Passed the House Health and Human Services Committee 6-2-1. Rules Committee Next.

SB 1109 Short Term Limited Health Plans- extension – AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill has passed both chambers and has been signed by the Governor.  It authorizes the sale of short- term limited health plans in Arizona for terms up to 3 years.  The previous limit was 1 year.  These plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions and have limited consumer protection because they aren’t required to cover the essential health services under the ACA and can drop enrollees.  We urged a not vote because of the poor consumer protections.

 ___________

On this Week’s Agenda:

SB 1040 Maternal Mortality Report (Brophy-McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 30-0. Bill will be heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday at 9am in HHR4.

SB 1247 Residential Care Institutions (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0.  Bill will be heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday at 9am in HHR4.

______________

Bills that passed one chamber and have been assigned to a committee but have not yet been put on an agenda yet include:

SB 1355 Native American Dental Care – AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 25-5.  Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee.

SB 1456 Vision Screening- AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 29-0. Assigned to Senate Education Committee.

________

Several other bills have passed one chamber but have not yet been assigned to a committee in the alternate chamber include:

SB 1354 Graduate Medical Information & Student Loan Repayment (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 28-2.  Not assigned to a House Committee yet. 

SB 1245 Vital Records- Death Certificates (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0.  Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 1009 Electronic Cigarettes, Tobacco Sales (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 30-0. Not assigned to a House Committee yet.

SB 1060 (Strike-all Amendment) Electronic Cigarettes. Smoke Free Arizona Act (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 28-0. Not assigned to a House Committee yet.

Measles & Mumps Cases in AZ

Arizona Has Lost Community Immunity in Many Places

In the last 2 weeks AZ public health officials have identified and confirmed cases of measles and mumps.  The mumps cases (2) were found in the SE valley and are under investigation by Maricopa County Public Health folks. Another mumps case has been confirmed in Cochise County.  The measles case was found in Tucson in a 12 month old- and appears to have been acquired after travelling to Asia. That case is being investigated by Pima County public health epidemiologists.

The basic detective work will include looking for susceptible contacts and conducting interventions to control the spread. Kids don't get the MMR vaccine until their first birthday, so infants are at high risk of getting the disease if they're exposed... so that group along with unvaccinated contacts (whether for medical or choice reasons) will be among the high priority contacts to identify.  You can see the investigation and control measures for both illnesses in Arizona's communicable disease rules (Pages 34-39).

Measles is more contagious than mumps- but both are easily spread (direct contact isn't needed to spread the virus).  Both are vaccine preventable diseases.  For measles (the most contagious disease), 95% of children need to be vaccinated to prevent spread.  

Whether these cases transition to an outbreak or epidemic will depend on where the index cases were prior to diagnosis, who was potentially exposed and the vaccination status of the contacts.  If the index cases were isolated or if they were in communities (or medical facilities) with vaccination rates above 95% it's unlikely that measles will spread beyond the first case. If they were among communities with lower vaccination levels, there's a good chance there will be more cases. Another wildcard will be whether there were potential infant contacts in doctors offices or clinics if potential exposures happened there.

Many parts of Arizona have vaccination levels lower than "herd immunity" levels, meaning that in many parts of the state we've lost community immunity.  Fortunately, Pima County has among the highest vaccination rates in the state, meaning there's a better chance of containing the disease.  Had the index case been from one of the many communities in AZ with much lower vaccination rates the risk would be higher. Of course- there are pockets of under vaccinated areas in every county- so many communities are at risk these days.  

Arizona is one of eighteen states that allows parents to opt out of vaccinating their child with a non-medical exemption Click this link to view the full report.  In fact, Maricopa County leads the nation in the highest number of non-medical exemptions.  

There are 30 Legislative Districts in AZ. You can click here to find out what District you live in so you can communicate with your elected officials about the importance of community immunity and ensuring they understand you support public policies that encourage immunizations.

BTW: there are science-based resources available to help parents make informative decisions about vaccines such as the CDC, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and TAPI.

Legislative Committee Hearings This Week

Senate Health & Human Services Committee

Wednesday, March 13, 9 am (SHR 1)

 

HB 2125 Child Care Subsidies (Udall) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed House 46-13.  Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

 

HB 2488 Veteran Suicide Annual Report (Lawrence) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed House 60-0. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

House Transportation Committee

Wednesday, March 13, 2 pm (HHR 2)

 

SB 1165 Texting and Driving Prohibition (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed Senate 20-10. Assigned to House Transportation Committee. 

House Health & Human Services Committee

Thursday, March 14, 9 am (HHR 4)

SB 1088 Dental Care During Pregnancy (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 27-3.  Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee.

 

SB 1211 Intermediate Care Facilities (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0. Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee.

Public Health Bills that have Passed a Chamber

Access to Care & Healthcare Workforce

SB 1088 Dental Care During Pregnancy (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 27-3.  Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee.

SB 1354 Graduate Medical Information & Student Loan Repayment (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 28-2.  Not assigned to a House Committee yet. 

 

SB 1089Telemedicine Insurance Coverage (Carter) – AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 30-0. Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee.

 

SB 1174 Tribal Area Health Education Center – AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 30-0. Assigned to Senate Education Committee.

 

SB 1355 Native American Dental Care – AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 25-5.  Assigned to House Health & Human Services Commottee.

 

SB 1456 Vision Screening- AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed Senate 29-0. Assigned to Senate Education Committee.

** Kids Care: The Kids Care Reauthorization bills have all languished in their chamber of origin, however, we have good reason to believe that reauthorizing Kids Care including the appropriation needed to pay the state match (10%) will be negotiation in the state budget bills.

 

Injury Prevention

SB 1165 Texting and Driving Prohibition (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed Senate 20-10. Assigned to House Transportation Committee. 

 

Licensing & Vital Records

SB 1247 Residential Care Institutions (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0.  Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

 

SB 1211 Intermediate Care Facilities (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0. Assigned to House Health & Human Services Committee.

 

SB 1245 Vital Records- Death Certificates (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0.  Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

 

Tobacco & Nicotine

SB 1009 Electronic Cigarettes, Tobacco Sales (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 30-0. Not assigned to a House Committee yet.

 

SB 1060 (Strike-all Amendment) Electronic Cigarettes. Smoke Free Arizona Act (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 28-0. Not assigned to a House Committee yet.

 

Surveillance & Social Determinants

HB 2125 Child Care Subsidies (Udall) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed House 46-13.  Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

 

HB 2488 Veteran Suicide Annual Report (Lawrence) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed House 60-0. Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

 

SB 1040 Maternal Mortality Report (Brophy-McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 30-0. Assigned to House Health and Human Services Committee.

Disappointments

HB 2718 Syringe Services Programs (Rivero) AzPHA Position: Yes

This terrific bill stalled in the House after not being heard by the Rules Committee. Perhaps it can be restored somehow in the Senate with a Strike Amendment.

Here's this week's detail report

Fed’s Making Big Changes to Title X Family Planning Funding

The US Department of Health & Human Services published in the Federal Register a final rule making changes to the federal regulations governing the Title X national family planning program. The final rules will dramatically change the existing Title X family planning program nationally and in AZ.  The changes will include:

Diminishing Title X’s ability to offer confidential, affordable, high-quality family planning care to people struggling financially or who are otherwise vulnerable and in need of care;

Eliminating Title X’s long-standing legal and ethical requirement for non-directive pregnancy options counseling; and

Requires a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between the provision of family planning and abortion services.

Numerous provider groups, state attorneys general and non-profit organizations are suing HHS seeking an injunction to stop the rule from taking effect while the courts decide the legality of the rule.

The American Medical Association along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit in Oregon.  Essential Access Health (the California Title X grantee) filed a lawsuit and the California AG filed a separate lawsuit to challenge the rule yesterday. 

There are now 23 State Attorney Generals that have announced plans to fight the final Title X rule, along with several nonprofits (AZ is not on the list). Others opposing the rule include health care providers of all stripes, public health associations including APHA, legal and ethical experts, reproductive justice advocates, policymakers and many others. A great reference to this activity is the story from the Washington Post, published before the last two states joined.

The Judicial branch of government will likely be the place that determines whether the new proposed final rules making these changes to Title X will actually go into effect.

CMS Updates Health and Safety Expectations

With all the news about the Hacienda Healthcare facility I thought I’d give an update about how facilities like Hacienda are regulated.  Hacienda was a special case because it was exempt from the state licensing requirements and wasn’t required to have a state license.  It did, however, need to be certified as meeting the federal standards of care.  CMS has an interest in ensuring quality care because they are the payers for many of the patients in skilled nursing facilities and the like.

In general, skilled nursing facilities are required to have a state license (and meet state licensing standards).  However, if the facility is accredited by a 3rd party like the Joint Commission or the Council on Accreditation, they can submit that certification to the ADHS and receive a license without an on-site inspection.  The Agency still has the authority to conduct complaint investigations, but will, in general not do annual surprise inspections not related to a complaint.

In addition to the state licensing standards, CMS requires that facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients also be Certified as meeting their standards.  That compliance work is also done by the ADHS – under a contract between CMS and the ADHS.  CMS asks states to use what's called the States Operations Manual when they do the certification inspections. 

So, a typical skilled nursing facility for example, would need to meet the state standards as well as the CMS expectations (in order to get paid for Medicare and Medicaid patient services).  When we (ADHS) re-wrote the healthcare institution Rules back in 2013, we did our best to synchronize the ADHS rules and CMS certification expectations.

CMS certification guidance addresses violations of health and safety regulations that cause serious harm or death to a patient and require immediate action to prevent further serious harm.  Their guidance also provides inspectors with guidance on quickly identifying and handling these urgent situations. 

This week, CMS announced that they've updated their guidance to states with information clarifies what information is needed to identify immediate jeopardy cases across all healthcare provider types.  The new guidance is in Appendix Q of the State Operations Manual that federal and state inspectors use.  CMS also released some new administrative tools to help inspectors make sure they have the evidence needed to meet criteria for immediate jeopardy.

Because these changes affect all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified healthcare providers, suppliers, and laboratories, CMS is providing online training on this new guidance at https://surveyortraining.cms.hhs.gov/ and are the revised guidance and administrative tools.

This was CMS’ final statement about their new guidance: “Investigators will now have a clear framework to identify serious patient health and safety problems. Today’s guidance is just the beginning of upcoming efforts to strengthen oversight of healthcare settings. Expect to hear more from us on this issue. This is part of the agency’s broader initiative of ensuring safety and quality, and we look forward to continuing to work on this priority across all our programs.”

It’s Switchover Time at the Legislature

The week before last was the deadline for bills to be heard in their chamber of origin- and much of last week’s action was on floor votes (called Third Read).  When a bill clears the House or Senate (having a 3rd reading with a recorded vote of the body) it’s transmitted to the other body of the legislature (the switchover). At that point, it gets 1st and 2nd read and assigned to a committee (s). Then it’s up to the chair to schedule the bill.

If heard, then it gets voted on and gets thru that body. If there are no changes, it’s sent back to its original body who then transmits it to the Governor. If there are changes the bill, goes back to the originating body to decide if they accept the changes. If they do, they’ll be a final read and recorded vote before transmitting to the Governor. If they don’t agree then it goes to conference committee. It can be a “simple” conference where the choice is the House or the Senate version. Most are free conference committees in which there are 3 members per body who serve.

Conference committees usually don’t take testimony.  The meetings are open but there’s usually only announcements from the floor to know when the group meets.  If there’s finally agreement, it goes back for acceptance of the conference report and a final vote by each side before it goes to the Governor.

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Lots of action last week with lots of 3rd read floor votes in the Senate. The House isn’t as far along in finishing 3rd reads.  This week we'll mostly be watching the 3rd Read votes.  We'd really like to get the hand free cell use bill, the syringe services bill, the GME bill and the e-cigarette smoke free AZ act bill through their chambers this week. Here's our document with all the particulars on bills this week.

Public health can breathe a little sigh of relief now that the Governor made it clear that he doesn’t   intend to sign any bill that would lower vaccination rates. We're already gambling with the lives of infants, people with disabilities, and immune optimized folks because of the erosion in our immunization rates and any of the 3 anti-vaccine bills this year (HB 2470, HB 2471, or HB  2472 would have done just that. 

We need public health policy decisions that improve vaccination rates, not decisions that put vulnerable people at even more risk.  With the Governor’s statements this we can now focus more of our efforts on the other (mostly good) public health policy bills out there.

 

Bills that Passed through the House or Senate

Access to Care & Healthcare Workforce

SB 1088 Dental Care During Pregnancy (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed the Senate 27-3.  This bill would expand AHCCCS covered services to include comprehensive dental coverage during pregnancy and appropriate the required state match funding. Good oral health is well established to improve birth outcomes including reducing pre-term birth while also preventing the transmission of caries from mom to infant after birth.  This priority bill was passed by the Senate this week and has been transferred to the House. Note that since this bull would have a needed appropriation it will need to be included in the final state budget.

SB 1089Telemedicine Insurance Coverage (Carter) – AzPHA Position: Yes

This Bill would put into law specific standards requiring non-Medicaid insurance companies to cover telemedicine.  There are criteria and standards in the law regarding contracting standards. Requires that coverage for telemedicine healthcare services if the service is covered when delivered in-person.   This bill would be good for access to care especially in rural Arizona which is why we’re supporting it. Passed 30-0.

SB 1174 Tribal Area Health Education Center

Health Education System consists of five area health education centers each representing a geographic area with specified populations that currently lack services by the health care professions.  The current regional centers include: 1) Eastern Arizona AHEC; 2) Greater Valley AHEC; 3) Northern Arizona AHEC; 4) Southeast Arizona AHEC; and 5) Western Arizona AHEC/Regional Center for Border Health.  This bill adds an area health education center that would focus on tribal areas and the Indian health care delivery system. Passed 30-0.  

SB 1355 Native American Dental Care

Passed Senate 25-5.  Requires AHCCCS to seek federal authorization to reimburse the Indian health services and tribal facilities to cover the cost of adult dental services.

** Kids Care: The Kids Care Reauthorization bills have all languished in their chamber of origin, however, we have good reason to believe that reauthorizing Kids Care including the appropriation needed to pay the state match (10%) will be negotiation in the state budget bills.

 

Licensing & Vital Records

SB 1247 Residential Care Institutions (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0. This good bill will require more robust staffing background checks for facilities that provide services for children and will remove the “deemed status” designation for child residential behavioral health facilities.  Under current law, facilities in this category (e.g. Southwest Key) can be accredited by a third party (e.g. Council on Accreditation) and avoid annual surprise inspections by the ADHS.  This intervention will provide more oversight to ensure background checks are done and that the facilities are compliant with state regulations. 

 

SB 1211 Intermediate Care Facilities (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Passed the Senate 30-0. Like SB 1247, this bill closes a licensing loophole.  This good bill will require more robust staffing background checks for facilities that provide services to people with disabilities at intermediate care facilities.  These facilities would also require a license to operate from the Arizona Department of Health Services beginning on January 1, 2020.  Under current law these facilities (Hacienda de los Angeles and similar facilities run by the ADES are exempt from state licensing requirements)

 

SB 1245 Vital Records- Death Certificates (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill will make it clear that both state and county Registrars can provide certified copies of death certificates to licensed funeral home directors upon request.  There’s been some confusion about this authority and this bill would clear it up.   Passed the Senate 30-0.

Tobacco & Nicotine

SB 1009 Electronic Cigarettes, Tobacco Sales (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Expands the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. Among other things, it'll make it clear that it's illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors. The penalty for selling to minors remains at $5K. Passed the Senate 30-0.

Surveillance & Social Determinants

HB 2125 Child Care Subsidies (Udall) – AzPHA Position: YES

Passed House 46-13.  Makes a supplemental appropriation of $56 million from the Federal Child Care and Development Fund block grant in FY2018-19 to the Department of Economic Security for child care assistance. Another bill, HB 2124 would allocate the money as follows: $26.7 million for provider rate increases, $14 million to serve children on the waiting list, and $13.1 million to increase tiered reimbursement for infants, toddlers and children in the care of DCS. HB 2436 is a similar bill. Passed 46-13 and has moved over to the Senate.

HB 2488 Veteran Suicide Annual Report (Lawrence) AzPHA Position: Yes

Requires ADHS to annually compile a report on veteran suicides beginning January 1, 2020. The data in the report would be shared across the public health system and with the VA and will hopefully include surveillance results that are actionable to prevent veteran suicides.

SB 1040 Maternal Mortality Report (Brophy-McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill would require the Child Fatality Review Team subcommittee on maternal mortality to make recommendations on improving information collection. Passed the Senate 30-0.

Bills that Still Need to Have a Final (3rd Read) First Chamber Vote

SB 1165 Texting and Driving Prohibition (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill prohibits using a hand-held cell phone while driving.  There are some common-sense exemptions for example if the person is using it hands free etc.  Violations are a civil $ penalty (no driving points) with the first offense being between $75- $150 and the 2nd offense between $150 and $250.  The bill would provide a state overlay so the cell phone use laws would no longer be different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We’re signed up in support of this bill.  This bill still needs to go to Committee of the Whole and get a Senate 3rd read.

HB 2718 Syringe Services Programs (Rivero) AzPHA Position: Yes

Decriminalizes syringe access programs, currently a class 6 felony. To qualify, programs need to list their services including disposal of used needles and hypodermic syringes, injection supplies at no cost, and access to kits that contain an opioid antagonist or referrals to programs that provide access to an opioid antagonist.  Approved by the International Affairs Study Committee this week.  Did not receive a hearing in Rules yet, we’ll work with stakeholders to get it heard in Rules.

SB 1354 Graduate Medical Information & Student Loan Repayment (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill appropriates $50M from the General Fund to AHCCCS, UA Health Science Center, ADHS and the to address the state-wide shortage of physicians and nurses.  The bill has several elements with a rural focus. Elements include $20M for Graduate Medical Education in critical-access hospitals and community health centers in rural areas and $4M for the ADHS’ health practitioners loan repayment system. Many elements will be very good for access to care in rural AZ.  Bill still needs a final vote in the Senate and of course – since it’s a money bill it’ll need to go through the budget process.

SB 1060 (Strike-all Amendment) Electronic Cigarettes. Smoke Free Arizona Act (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Includes e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products and smoking for the purposes of the Smoke Free Arizona Act.  Allows smoking in retail stores that sell electronic smoking devices exclusively and have an independent ventilation system.  Because the Act was voter approved- this modification to the law will require a 3/4 majority of both houses.  This bill still needs to go to Committee of the Whole and get a Senate 3rd read.

SB 1456 Vision Screening- AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill would require schools to provide vision screening services to students in grades prescribed by future ADHS rules, kids being considered for special education services, and students who are not reading at grade level by the third grade. Appropriates $100,000 from the state General Fund to the ADHS for the tracking and follow up.  This bill still needs to go to Committee of the Whole and get a Senate 3rd read.

HB 2471 Informed Consent (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill would add a requirement that physicians provide to parents and guardians the full vaccine package insert and excipient summary for each vaccine that will be administered.  Physicians already provide a Vaccine Information Summary to parents and guardians for each vaccine administered, which is noted in the medical record.  This new requirement would mandate provision of the 12-15 page insert, which is not presented in a format that incorporates health literacy principles.  Bill is likely dead but we’re remaining vigilant and will work with Stakeholders like TAPI to hold it back in the House.

HB  2472 Vaccinations- Antibody Titer (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

These bills would mandate that doctors inform parents and guardians that antibody titer tests (which involve a venous draw) are an option in lieu of receiving a vaccination and that there are exemptions available for the state requirements for attending school.   Bill is likely dead but we’re remaining vigilant and will work with Stakeholders like TAPI to hold it back in the House.

HB 2470 Vaccination Religious Exemptions (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill would add an additional exemption to the school vaccine requirements into state law.  Currently there are medical and personal exemptions.  The bill doesn't include any verification of the religious exemption from a religious leader, just a declaration from the parent that they are opposed to vaccines on religious grounds.  Bill is likely dead but we’re remaining vigilant and will work with Stakeholders like TAPI to hold it back in the House.

Good Bills that are Effectively Dead

Unless a miracle happens- this is the last time you’ll see me mention the bills below in my policy updates

SB 1363  Tobacco Product Sales (Tobacco 21) (Carter)

HB 2162  Vaccine Personal Exemptions (Hernandez)

HB 2352 School Nurse and Immunization Postings (Butler)

HB 2172  Rear Facing Car Seats (Bolding)

HB 2246  Motorcycle Helmets (Friese)

SB 1219  Domestic Violence Offenses & Firearm Transfer

HB 2247  Bump Stocks (Friese)

HB 2248  Firearm Sales (Friese)

HB 2161  Order of Protection (Hernandez)

SB 1119 Tanning Studios (Mendez)

HB 2347  Medicaid Buy-in (Butler)

HB 2351  Medical Services Study Committee (Butler)

Legislative Update- Week of February 25

We’re roughly at the 1/3 to the halfway point in the legislative session now.  This coming week the only committees meeting are the Appropriations committees.  Lots of floor activity this upcoming week and then onto the delight of seeing how the Senate deals with House bills and how the House deals with Senate bills. 

The action this week will be in the Republican and Democratic Caucus meetings, the Committee of the Whole (in which the whole membership of a legislative house sits as a committee and operating under informal rules) and Third Read- which is the final tallied vote. You can follow the Third Read votes this week at www.azleg.gov.

The Appropriations committees will meet this week- but the public health bills with dollars attached have already been heard in the Approps Committees except for SB1399 (the School Health Pilot Program) which is being held at the Stakeholder and Sponsor request until procurement issues get resolved.

Leila Barraza, Senator Carter and I did a webinar this week on the UA Telemedicine system summarizing the legislative session so far.  You can click here to view webinar or view the Presentation Slides.

Here’s this week’s bill summary in spreadsheet format.

Bills Heard in Committee Last Week

SB 1060 (Strike-all Amendment) Electronic Cigarettes. Smoke Free Arizona Act (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Includes e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products and smoking for the purposes of the Smoke Free Arizona Act.  Allows smoking in retail stores that sell electronic smoking devices exclusively and have an independent ventilation system.  Because the Act was voter approved- this modification to the law will require a 3/4 majority of both houses. The Striker was Approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last Wednesday.

SB 1165 Texting and Driving Prohibition (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill prohibits using a hand-held cell phone while driving.  There are some common-sense exemptions for example if the person is using it hands free etc.  Penalties are a civil penalty (no driving points) with the first offense being between $75- $150 and the 2nd offense between $150 and $250.  We are signed up in support of this bill.  Approved by the Senate Transportation Committee this week.  Floor vote next.

SB1399 School Health Pilot Program (Pace) AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill charges the AZ Department of Education with conducting a 3-year physical and health education professional development pilot program to improve the ability of physical and health educators in this state to provide high quality physical and health education to students in this state, improving student health and reducing Arizona health care cost containment 10 system and other health-related costs.  Appropriates $9.5M for planning, implementing, and evaluating the pilot.  Approved by the Senate Education Committee this week.  Appropriations Committee next.

HB 2470 Vaccination Religious Exemptions (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill would add an additional exemption to the school vaccine requirements into state law.  Currently there are medical and personal exemptions.  The bill doesn't include any verification of the religious exemption from a religious leader, just a declaration from the parent that they are opposed to vaccines on religious grounds.  Approved 5-4 by the House Health & Human Services Committee this week.  Floor vote next.

HB 2471 Informed Consent (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

These bills would add a requirement that physicians provide to parents and guardians the full vaccine package insert and excipient summary for each vaccine that will be administered.  Physicians already provide a Vaccine Information Summary to parents and guardians for each vaccine administered, which is noted in the medical record.  This new requirement would mandate provision of the 12-15 page insert, which is not presented in a format that incorporates health literacy principles.  Approved 5-4 by the House Health & Human Services Committee this week.  Floor vote next.

HB  2472 Vaccinations- Antibody Titer (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

These bills would mandate that doctors inform parents and guardians that antibody titer tests (which involve a venous draw) are an option in lieu of receiving a vaccination and that there are exemptions available for the state requirements for attending school.   Approved 5-4 by the House Health & Human Services Committee this week.  Floor vote next.

HB 2597School Safety Plan Task Force (Hernandez) AzPHA Position: Yes

This well-researched bill came out of a workgroup established by students at Mountain View High School. It takes a proactive approach to prevent school violence.  The Bill asks schools to develop plans to outline how teachers and staff will respond to crisis situations, how they respond to warning signs of emotional or behavioral distress among students, partnerships with agencies to refer students to support services, and what services they’ll provide after a violent incident.  Approved by both the House Education and Public Safety Committees this week.  Floor vote next.

HB 2718 Syringe Services Programs (Rivero) AzPHA Position: Yes

Decriminalizes syringe access programs, currently a class 6 felony. To qualify, programs need to list their services including disposal of used needles and hypodermic syringes, injection supplies at no cost, and access to kits that contain an opioid antagonist or referrals to programs that provide access to an opioid antagonist.  Approved by the International Affairs Study Committee this week.  Floor vote next.

 

Bills that Have Passed a Chamber

SB 1009 Electronic Cigarettes, Tobacco Sales (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Expands the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. Among other things, it'll make it clear that it's illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors. The penalty for selling to minors remains at $5K. Unanimously passed in the full Senate and was transmitted to the House this week.

SB 1040 Maternal Mortality Report (Brophy-McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill would require the Child Fatality Review Team subcommittee on maternal mortality to compile an annual statistical report on the incidence and causes of "severe maternal morbidity" with recommendations for action.  The current law requires a review of the data but no report. Unanimously passed in the full Senate and was transmitted to the House this week.

SB 1174 Tribal Area Health Education Center

The Health Education System consists of five area health education centers each representing a geographic area with specified populations that currently lack services by the health care professions.  The current regional centers include: 1) Eastern Arizona AHEC; 2) Greater Valley AHEC; 3) Northern Arizona AHEC; 4) Southeast Arizona AHEC; and 5) Western Arizona AHEC/Regional Center for Border Health.  This bill adds an area health education center focusing on the Indian health care delivery system. Approved by the Senate. Passed out of the Senate by a vote of 30-0.

Are School Attendance Vaccination Requirements Constitutional?

There was a lot of contentious debate in both the Arizona Senate and House this week regarding bills that have proposed that would add a religious exemption for school attendance vaccination requirements.

Much of the testimony from parents centered around their belief that public school vaccination requirements are unconstitutional, so I thought I’d take a deeper dive into that subject this week before I get to this week’s bill summary.

There are a couple flagship US Supreme Court cases that address school vaccine requirements.  The first case (from 1905) is called Jacobson v. Massachusetts, in which a guy named Henning Jacobson challenged Massachusetts law that required everybody to be vaccinated against Smallpox or face fine or imprisonment. 

Justice Marshall Harlan delivered the decision for a 7-2 majority, holding that the freedom of the individual must sometimes be subordinated to the common welfare.  The majority opinion rejected Jacobson's claim that the 14th Amendment gave him the right to refuse vaccination.  However, the court held that there needs to be exceptions for people with medical contra-indications. 

A later Supreme Court case (in 1922) called Zucht v. King directly addressed the constitutionality of school attendance vaccination requirements.  In that case, the Court held that a school system could refuse admission to a student who failed to receive a required vaccination.

In that case, San Antonio the family of Rosalyn Zucht challenged San Antonio’s ordinance requiring that students present a certificate of vaccination for smallpox before attending school (public or private).  Rosalyn’s parents were unwilling to vaccinate her, so she was excluded from both public and private schools in San Antonio.

The family argued that since smallpox wasn’t present in town at the time, there was no emergency requiring vaccination, and that she was deprived of liberty without due process of law by effectively making vaccination compulsory. The Texas state courts denied her claims, and the family appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Court found no reason to question the fairness with which the city ordinance was applied and found that the ordinance reflected the broad discretion needed by authorities to protect the public health.

More States Moving to Eliminate Non-Medical Exemptions (not in AZ)

There have been 127 cases of measles were confirmed in 10 states this year with outbreaks in Texas, Washington, and multiple jurisdictions in New York. The reported cases are centered primarily within communities where rates of children who are vaccinated against measles are below herd immunity (due to its high level of communicability, measles require a high rate of vaccination, between 95% to reach herd immunity).  

There are many communities in Arizona and across the country where the rates are much lower than 95%. For example, in Clark County, Washington (where a recent measles outbreak originated) the percentage of kindergarteners who received a vaccine for measles fell from 96% in 2004 to 85% in 2017.

Every state has vaccination requirements for kids starting school, and all states also have medical exemptions.  All but three states—California, Mississippi, and West Virginia—also allow non-medical exemptions (i.e., exemptions based on religious, philosophical, or personal beliefs).

Arizona currently has medical and religious exemptions for pre-school & medical and personal exemptions for public school attendance. HB 2070, which passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday (5-4) would add a new religious exemption for public school.

Over the past 10 years, the number of non-medical exemptions has increased, especially in states that allow both religious and philosophical exemptions. Additionally, researchers have identified several areas in the US where large numbers of non-medical exemptions are granted, including in the Portland metro area, where Clark County, Washington, is located.

Some states are now beginning to do away with non-medical exemptions for school vaccination requirements.

In 2015, following an outbreak of measles at Disneyland, CA eliminated its non-medical exemptions (and immunization coverage recovered dramatically).  In California, vaccination rates rebounded substantially after the personal exemption was eliminated.  Vermont also eliminated its philosophical belief exemption in 2015 (but kept their religious exemption).

This year, a bill to remove the personal belief exemption for the MMR vaccine has passed the State of Washington's House of Representatives (HB 1638).  Many other states have also proposed eliminating non-medical exemptions, including Arizona (HB 2162 - which has not received a hearing), Iowa (HF 206), Maine (LD 798), Minnesota (SF 1520), and New York (S 2994 and A 2371).

Sadly, the bills that have received hearings in Arizona all work against improving our immunization rates, including HB 2470 Vaccination Religious Exemptions, HB 2471 Informed Consent, and HB  2472 Vaccinations- Antibody Titer.  All 3 Bills received Pass Recommendations in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week (by a 5-4 margin). They will likely be up for floor votes this week in the AZ House.

Voice Your Opinion this Legislative Session

As the leading public health professionals in the state, it’s important that you engage in public health policy development. After all, we’re the people that have first hand knowledge about the public health implications of the decisions that our elected officials make.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to voice your opinion. Our state legislature has a transparent way to track bills through their www.azleg.gov website. The site allows you to track when bills are being heard in committee and provides an opportunity for you to express your support, opposition, or neutrality from your home or office.  

The main URL to bookmark in your computer is http://www.azleg.gov - which is the State Legislature's official website.  It got an overhaul last year making it easier to work with.

If you have the number for a bill you're interested in following, simply go to the upper right corner of the http://www.azleg.gov website and punch in the numbers. Up pops the bill including its recent status, committee assignments and the like. 

The dark blue tabs provide more detailed info about the bill.  For example, the “Documents” tab displays the actual language of the bill including the most recent versions.

You'll see that bills have committee assignments on the Bill Status pages. You can easily check the committee agendas each week on the website too.  Go to the "Committee Agenda" and pull up the agenda for the committee you’re interested in.  

Most of the bills we've been following and advocating for or against have been assigned to either the House Health Committee or the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.  This year the House Health Committee meets on Thursdays at 9 am. The Senate Health & Human Services Committee meets Wednesdays at 2 pm.

I’m encouraging all of you to weigh in for and against bills when you believe that it’s in the best interests of public health to do so. It’s straightforward.

First you need to create an account with an e-mail address and a password. You’ll need to go down to one of the kiosks in the House or Senate to set up your account and password- but after that you’ll be able to sign in for or against bills from your home or office. If you don’t want to use your work email address you can use a personal e-mail.

Once your account is set up, you can sign in support or against any bill at the Azleg’s My Bill Positons site at https://apps.azleg.gov/RequestToSpeak/MyBillPositions 

Even if you don’t have an account, you can click on each bill and find out who has signed in for or against or neutral on the bill.  Just go to the tab over each bill that says "RTS Current Bill Positions" and you’ll see who has signed in support or against each bill. Sometimes you'll see our name up there (AzPHA)

Legislative Update

All the legislative committees have big long agendas this week – as the deadline for bills to be head in their house of origin committees is rapidly approaching.  So, this will be a busy week. 

Our policy interns Tim Giblin and Annissa Biggane have been doing a great job tracking all the bills that we’re signed up for and against and monitoring amendments and the like. Here’s their detailed summary of all the various public health related bills and where they are in the system right now.

We have an Action Alert this week regarding some bills that will have a detrimental effect on vaccination rates- so please follow through on that this week- you can see more about that below.

Bills to Be Heard in Committee This Week

Monday

HB 2597  School Safety Plan Task Force (Hernandez) AzPHA Position: Yes

This well-researched bill came out of a workgroup established by students at Mountain View High School. It takes a proactive approach to prevent school violence.  The Bill asks schools to develop plans to outline how teachers and staff will respond to crisis situations, how they respond to warning signs of emotional or behavioral distress among students, partnerships with agencies to refer students to support services, and what services they’ll provide after a violent incident. This important bill will be heard in the House Education Committee on Monday, February 18 at 2pm.  We’re signed up in favor of the bill.

 

Tuesday

SB1399  School Health Pilot Program (Pace) AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill charges the AZ Department of Education with conducting a 3-year physical and health education professional development pilot program to improve the ability of physical and health educators in this state to provide high quality physical and health education to students in this state, improving student health and reducing Arizona health care cost containment 10 system and other health-related costs.  Appropriates $9.5M for planning, implementing, and evaluating the pilot.  This important bill will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, February 18 at 2pm. We’re signed up in favor of the bill and I’ll be speaking in Committee.

 

Wednesday

SB 1165 Texting and Driving Prohibition (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill prohibits using a hand-held cell phone while driving.  There are some common-sense exemptions for example if the person is using it hands free etc.  Penalties are a civil penalty (no driving points) with the first offense being between $75- $150 and the 2nd offense between $150 and $250.  We are signed up in support of this bill.  Will be heard in Senate Transportation Wednesday at 9 am.  We’re signed up in favor of the bill and I’ll be speaking in Committee.

 

Thursday

HB 2471 Informed Consent (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill would add a requirement that physicians provide to parents and guardians the full vaccine package insert and excipient summary for each vaccine that will be administered.  Physicians already provide a Vaccine Information Summary to parents and guardians for each vaccine administered, which is noted in the medical record.

This new requirement would mandate provision of the 12-15 page insert, which is not presented in a format that incorporates health literacy principles. Hearing will be Thursday, February 21 at 9 am in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee.  We’re signed up opposed to the the bill and I’ll be speaking in Committee.

 

HB  2472 Vaccinations- Antibody Titer (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

These bills would mandate that doctors inform parents and guardians that antibody titer tests (which involve a venous draw) are an option in lieu of receiving a vaccination and that there are exemptions available for the state requirements for attending school.   Hearing will be Thursday, February 21 at 9 am in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee.  Hearing will be Thursday, February 21 at 9 am in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee.  We’re signed up opposed to the bill and I’ll be speaking in Committee.

HB 2470 Vaccination Religious Exemptions (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill would add an additional exemption to the school vaccine requirements into state law.  Currently there are medical and personal exemptions.  The bill doesn't include any verification of the religious exemption from a religious leader, just a declaration from the parent that they are opposed to vaccines on religious grounds.  Hearing will be Thursday, February 21 at 9 am in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee.  We’re signed up opposed to the bill and I’ll be speaking in Committee.

ACTION ALERT: Please contact the following Representatives and let them know that you oppose HB 2470, HB 2471 & 2472 as they will decrease immunization coverage and jeopardize herd immunity.

Please focus your attention on the lawmakers in bold- especially those of you that know them!

 

John Allen

jallen@azleg.gov

Nancy Barto

nbarto@azleg.gov

Kelli Butler

kbutler@azleg.gov

Gail Griffin

ggriffin@azleg.gov

Alma Hernandez

ahernandez@azleg.gov

Jay Lawrence

jlawrence@azleg.gov  

Becky A. Nutt

bnutt@azleg.gov

Pamela Powers Hannley

ppowershannley@azleg.gov

Amish Shah

ashah@azleg.gov


Bills Heard in Committee Last Week

SB 1247 Residential Care Institutions (Brophy McGee) AzPHA Position: Yes

This good bill will require more robust staffing background checks for facilities that provide services for children and will remove the “deemed status” designation for child residential behavioral health facilities.  Under current law, facilities in this category (e.g. Southwest Key) can be accredited by a third party (e.g. Council on Accreditation) and avoid annual surprise inspections by the ADHS.

This intervention will provide more oversight to ensure background checks are done and that the facilities are compliant with state regulations.  This bill passed through the Senate Health & Human Services this week and will be moving to the floor.

SB 1211 Intermediate Care Facilities (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

Like SB 1247, this bill closes a licensing loophole.  This good bill will require more robust staffing background checks for facilities that provide services to people with disabilities at intermediate care facilities.  These facilities would also require a license to operate from the Arizona Department of Health Services beginning on January 1, 2020. 

Under current law these facilities (Hacienda de los Angeles and similar facilities run by the ADES are exempt from state licensing requirements This Bill passed the Senate Health & Human Services this week and will be moving to the floor.

 

SB 1088 Dental Care During Pregnancy (Carter) AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill would expand AHCCCS covered services to include comprehensive dental coverage during pregnancy and appropriate the required state match funding. Passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on 1/23.  This Bill passed through the Senate Appropriation Committee this week and will be headed to the floor next.

 

HB 2073 Vapor Products; Regulation (Shope) – AzPHA Position: Opposed

This bill would basically set up a quasi-regulatory program at the ADHS to license electronic cigarette manufacturers in Arizona and specify that only licensed electronic cigarette manufacturers can sell products in Arizona.  It gives no regulatory authority to the ADHS to enforce that vape shops get licensed and they only must do it every 5 years. There are no penalties for noncompliance and penalties are against the purchaser instead of the retailer.  This bill passed the House Health Committee by a 5-4 vote this week.

 

Bills that Have Passed a Chamber

SB 1009 Electronic Cigarettes, Tobacco Sales (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Expands the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. Among other things, it'll make it clear that it's illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors. The penalty for selling to minors remains at $5K. Unanimously passed in the full Senate and was transmitted to the House this week.

SB 1040 Maternal Mortality Report (Brophy-McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill would require the Child Fatality Review Team subcommittee on maternal mortality to compile an annual statistical report on the incidence and causes of "severe maternal morbidity" with recommendations for action.  The current law requires a review of the data but no report.

“AHCCCS Works” Reporting System RFP

A few weeks ago CMS approved Arizona’s request to include work requirements and/or community engagement and reporting requirements as a condition of Medicaid enrollment beginning on January 1, 2020.  CMS’ Letter to Director Snyder is 18 pages long and contains conditions and details- so refer to that letter for the nuts and bolts of what they said.

The work requirement/community engagement Waiver request was mandated by Senate Bill 1092 (from 2015) which requires AHCCCS to ask CMS’ permission to implement new eligibility requirements for “able-bodied adults”. 

The work/community engagement requirements (which begin 1/1/20) will require some “able-bodied” members between the ages of 19 to 49 years-old to participate in community engagement activities for at least 80 hours per month and report their activities monthly.  Activities can include employment, including self-employment; less than full-time education; job or life skills training; job search activities; and community service.

A member who fails to comply in any given month will be suspended from AHCCCS coverage for 2-months but automatically reinstated after that. Members won't be terminated for failing to comply.

There are several categories of folks that will be exempted from the requirements – you can see that full list in a previous blog post.

A few weeks ago, AHCCCS released a Request for Proposal (SOLICITATION # YH19-0028) to find a vendor to develop the system that AHCCCS members would use to report community engagement activities, work activities, report exclusions, and/or to notify AHCCCS why they haven’t met the work/community engagement requirements. The solicitation reminds bidders that the system has to communicate via file transfer or web interfaces with their eligibility and enrollment system and connect to the “AZTECS” system so it can identify members that are participating in SNAP or Cash assistance eligibility.   Bids are due February 19, 2019.

Hopefully AHCCCS will find a solid vendor that will deliver a system that is easy to use for AHCCCS members with an intuitive interface, easy to use functions, and very accurate connectivity with other databases so that members will have an easy time reporting their compliance with the new requirements.

Measles Outbreaks, Personal Exemptions, Parent Education & School Exclusions:

Interventions to Protect Kids & Stop the Spread of Disease

The Social Contract & Herd Immunity

At the core – vaccines are really about community protection.  Our public health system depends on a solid network of providers that are available to vaccinate kids for all the nasty infectious diseases that have plagued humanity for millenia.  Vaccinating yourself and your kids is more about community protection than personal protection. It’s a social contract that we have with each other to keep all of us healthy.

We need just about everybody to participate in our shared social contract to vaccinate in order to get the herd immunity.  When communities have herd immunity, those who can’t be vaccinated and folks with weakened immune systems will still be protected because the viruses can’t circulate.  Measles needs a 95% community vaccination rate to achieve herd immunity.

 

School Enrollment Requirements & Exemptions

To achieve herd immunity and prevent the spread of measles and other communicable diseases, every state including Arizona requires kids in public school to be vaccinated against a series of diseases, including measles.

All states allow an exemption from the required vaccines when it’s medically necessary.  Seventeen states (including Arizona) allow parents to exempt their kids from the requirements because of personal or philosophical beliefs (called personal belief exemptions).  BTW: HB 2162 would change that by removing Arizona’s personal belief exemption (it hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing).  States with a personal exemption option usually have lower vaccination rates than states without that option.

States also have authority to exclude kids that are unvaccinated from school during a vaccine preventable disease outbreak. In Arizona, ARS § 15-873(C) states that students “… who lack documentary proof of immunization shall not attend school during outbreak periods of communicable immunization-preventable diseases”.  The decision to exclude kids during an outbreak rests with the directors of the county health departments and school administrators and is prescribed in Arizona’s Communicable Disease Rules.

 

Immunization Rates Among AZ Schools

Arizona has many pockets in which our vaccination rates are below 95%, mostly in high income areas and among certain charter schools. One of our best sources of vaccine coverage data comes from schools and childcare centers- which are required to report their vaccination coverage and exemption rates for 19-35 month old’s, kindergartners, and 6th graders.

Public health agencies aren’t the only group of folks interested in school exemption rates. Many parents are interested in finding out whether their child’s school is has a high vaccination rate.  For the last several years, the ADHS has been posting the vaccination rates of schools across the state.

Last year exemption rates increased across all age categories. Exemptions rose from 3.9% to 4.3% for child care, from 4.9% to 5.4% for kindergarten and from 5.1% to 5.4% for 6th grade.  As is always the case, exemption rates were much higher in charter schools. Data for exemption rates and vaccine coverage rates by county and school are available on the ADHS website.  Note: updated exemption rates will be available in a couple of months.

 

Educating Parents

Arizona’s public health system has been doing some creative work to improve our immunization rates. One is an innovative on-line immunization education course that’s designed to serve as part of a potential new personal exemption process.  

Last year a pilot project was conducted recently at a dozen or so schools in Maricopa County to learn how to best implement an immunization education module, get feedback from school staff, and identify whether parents learned new information about vaccines using a pre-and post-knowledge assessment survey.

A new more robust pilot is planned for the 2019-2020 school year. The county health departments and the ADHS are partnering in the project.  At participating schools (hopefully as many as 125 schools), parents who want to exempt their kids from the school enrollment vaccination requirements will be asked to complete the Immunization Education Course first.  Upon completion, they’ll be able to download their school’s exemption form.

The online course is designed only for the use of Personal Beliefs Exemptions in grades K-12 at pilot program schools. It doesn’t change the process to request and obtain a Medical Exemption form or the Religious Beliefs Exemption form.

Hopefully the project will demonstrate positive results and will include an academic partner so the eventual results can be published and other states can learn from this important work.

We don’t have much time, though.  Vaccination rates are already below herd immunity levels for measles in many parts of the state, and all it'll take right now is a sentinel measles case in the right place at the right time and we’ll have a measles outbreak- maybe one as bad as the one happening right now in Washington state and across much of Western Europe.

CA Eliminated Personal Exemptions & Vaccination Rates Improved A Lot

California had also been struggling to maintain herd immunity vaccination rates- especially in higher income areas (just like us).  After trying a variety of interventions- and following a measles outbreak associated with Disneyland- the California Assembly passed & Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 277 (in 2015) which abolished personal exemptions in California.

The intervention worked.  In the following years, CA had sharp increases in vaccination rates among kindergarteners entering school. During the 2014–2015 school year the statewide kindergarten full-vaccination rate was only 90.4%. After implementing the new law, the kindergarten full-vaccination rate rose to >95% and has stayed there. 

By the way- a few months ago the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles found that the CA law didn’t violate freedom of religion or the right to an education.

The court said that… “Compulsory immunization has long been recognized as the gold standard for preventing the spread of contagious diseases”.  The court said the new law was not discriminatory and was a valid measure to protect public health.  Just saying.

Legislative Update

State Legislature Bill Update

All the legislative committees are off to the races now- busy considering the various bills assigned to them by the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate.  In order to survive, Bills will need to be heard in all their house of origin committees in the next few weeks and then get a floor vote, pass that, and then move over to the other chamber.

Our Public Health Policy Committee met over the phone last week and we took positions on many bills- and we input them into the www.azleg.gov system to demonstrate our support.

This week I’ll start with a summary of bills scheduled for a hearing next week, followed by the bills that were heard last week. 

This week I'm not listing all the bills that haven’t seen action yet- but you’ll be able to find those on my blog at http://www.azpha.org/wills-blog

 

Bills that Will Be Heard in Committee This Week

SB 1247 Residential Care Institutions (Brophy McGee) – AzPHA Position: Yes

This good bill will require more robust staffing background checks for facilities that provide services for children and will remove the “deemed status” designation for child residential behavioral health facilities.  Under current law, facilities in this category (e.g. Southwest Key) can be accredited by a third party (e.g. Council on Accreditation) and avoid annual surprise inspections by the ADHS.

This intervention will provide more oversight to ensure background checks are done and that the facilities are compliant with state regulations.  Bill will be heard in Senate Health & Human Services on Wednesday at 8:30am in SHR1.  I’ll be speaking in favor at the hearing.


SB 1211 Intermediate Care Facilities (Carter) – AzPHA Position: Yes

Like SB 1247, this bill closes a licensing loophole.  This good bill will require more robust staffing background checks for facilities that provide services to people with disabilities at intermediate care facilities.  These facilities would also require a license to operate from the Arizona Department of Health Services beginning on January 1, 2020. 

Under current law these facilities (Hacienda de los Angeles and similar facilities run by the ADES are exempt from state licensing requirements.  Bill will be heard in Senate Health & Human Services on Wednesday at 8:30am in SHR1.  I’ll be speaking in favor at the hearing.

SB 1088 Dental Care During Pregnancy (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill would expand AHCCCS covered services to include comprehensive dental coverage during pregnancy and appropriate the required state match funding. Passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on 1/23.  Will be heard in the Senate Appropriation Committee Tuesday, Feb 12 at 2 pm.  I’ll be speaking in favor at the hearing.

 

Bills that Were Heard in Committee Last Week

SB 1009 Electronic Cigarettes, Tobacco Sales (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Expands the definition of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. Among other things, it'll make it clear that it's illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors. The penalty for selling to minors remains at $5K. Passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee 1/23.  Rules Committee is next.

SB 1040 Maternal Mortality Report (Brophy-McGee) – AzPHA Position: YES

This bill would require the Child Fatality Review Team subcommittee on maternal mortality to compile an annual statistical report on the incidence and causes of "severe maternal morbidity" with recommendations for action.  The current law requires a review of the data but no report. Passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on 1/23. Passed Rules & COW.  Floor vote soon.

HB 2125 Child Care Subsidies (Udall) – AzPHA Position: YES

Makes a supplemental appropriation of $56 million from the Federal Child Care and Development Fund block grant in FY2018-19 to the Department of Economic Security for child care assistance. Another bill, HB 2124 would allocate the money as follows: $26.7 million for provider rate increases, $14 million to serve children on the waiting list, and $13.1 million to increase tiered reimbursement for infants, toddlers and children in the care of DCS. HB 2436 is a similar bill. Passed the House Health Committee this week.  On to Rules.

SB 1011 Information and Referral Service (Carter) – AzPHA Position: YES

Appropriates $1.5 million from the general fund in FY2019-20 to the ADES for a statewide information and referral service for health care services, community services, human services and governmental services.  Passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee this week.  On to Approps & Rules.

HB 2350 HB2513 SB1134 Kids Care (Butler, Brophy-McGee, Cobb) – AzPHA Position: YES

SB 1134 passed Senate Health and Human Services this week, on to Approps and Rules. These bills Would appropriate funding so that Kids Care could continue after the federal match rate goes below 100% on October 1, 2019.

SB 1341 Tanning Studios (Carter) – AzPHA Position YES

Would require people under 18 that want to use a commercial tanning bed service to have permission from their parent or guardian. This passed the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday.  On to Rules Committee then the Senate Floor.