Weekly AzPHA Public Health Policy Committee Update

Not much has changed with respect to individual health-related bills since last week...  with a couple of exceptions, so you can read last week's update for the most part to find out where things stand.  The Governor did sign a couple of health-related bills last week- so I'll touch on those and then transition to the state budget.

Involuntary Commitment Procedures

The Governor signed HB2084 which will allow a mental treatment facility to admit a patient for involuntary treatment pending the filing of a tribal courts involuntary commitment order.  We advocated for this bill because it provides a mechanism for a more smooth access to care- especially for tribal members.  Now that it's been signed, it'll become law 90 days after the legislative session ends.

Deliveries

The Governor also signed  SB 1367 (abortion; live delivery; report; definition).  It'll become law 90 days after the end of session as well.  Under already existing law, when a baby is "delivered alive" during an abortion, doctors are required to ensure that "all available means and medical skills are used to promote, preserve and maintain the life" of the baby.  But, the existing law didn't specifically provide a definition of the words "delivered alive" leaving room for professional judgment.  The bill that was just signed specifically defines "delivered alive" as showing one or more of these signs of life: breathing, a heartbeat, umbilical cord pulsation or definite movement of voluntary muscles.

Now that it will become law later this year, the Arizona Department of Health Services will be required to set policies that clinics, hospitals and physicians will need to follow to care during a procedure or delivery thatfits the new definition of "delivered alive".  The requirements will include having neonatal emergency equipment and trained staff in the room for all abortions performed at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  Many people expressed concerns that it will require doctors to perform unproductive medical procedures on a fetus born early because of fatal abnormalities.  Healthcare providers represented by the Arizona Medical Association and the AZ Chapter of American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology also expressed these concerns. 

State Budget

Each year the Governor of AZ submits a proposed budget for all the activities of state government including the operation of all the state agencies.  The budget process and outcome is is always very important in terms of public health- because so much of the budget directly and indirectly impacts things that influence public health.

Much of the real action on the budget happens behind closed doors in meetings among folks that are appointed to important positions in the Executive Branch and members of the legislature- especially those in the Appropriations Committees.

AzPHA is in firm support of proposals in the (executive) budget to: 1) appropriate the funding needed to bring back adult emergency dental services among all Medicaid (AHCCCS)  members - up to $1,000 annually (this had been a benefit prior to the Great Recession); 2) add Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID) to Arizona’sNewborn Screening Panel;  and 3) increase funding to the state’s loan repayment program by $350K (potentially allowing the state to qualify for a full $1M in matching funds from HRSA).   

We believe that these are all important proposals that will improve public health in Arizona. Our Public Policy Committee will be paying close attention to the budget process and will advocate for these important initiatives.