We're moving full force into the budget negotiations process now. By all accounts it looks to be a more deliberative process than in years past because of the tight party affiliation margins and the disconnect between the executive budget priorities and those of the legislature. It's likely that we'll have at least a few more weeks before a final budget is complete- and it might even go into June this year.
Public Health Bills Signed by the Governor
This bill was a long time coming- but were on the precipice of having this good public policy finally happen- all that's left is for the Gov to sign it. It will prohibit 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. It'll change driving behaviors and save lives.
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 for a year and a half - and then the penalties kick in.
SB 1247 Residential Care Institutions
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 the old law 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
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 1040 Maternal Mortality Report
This bill was signed by the Governor this week. The new law will establish an Advisory Committee on Maternal Fatalities and Morbidity.
It requires ADHS and the Committee to hold a public hearing to receive public input regarding the recommended improvements to information collection concerning the incidence and causes of maternal fatalities and severe maternal morbidity and complete a report (including recommendations) by the end of this year.
SB 1089 Telemedicine
This week the Governor signed this bill will improve healthcare access and help lower costs. With this legislation, any healthcare service covered in-person by a commercial insurer will also be covered when provided through telemedicine. Currently, Arizona law limits telemedicine coverage to a handful of medical services.
HB 2488 Veteran Suicide Annual Report (Lawrence)
Requires ADHS (starting this year) to complete an annual report on veteran suicides in Arizona that includes the number and rate of veterans who died by suicide, trends, an analysis of the years of potential life lost, a comparison of Arizona's resident veteran suicide rate to those of the nation, and the relative risk of suicide by race or ethnicity, age group, gender and region.
The report is also supposed to analyze patterns of drugs, or combinations of drugs, that were used by Arizona's resident veterans when drug poisoning was the mechanism of suicide. The idea is to create the surveillance and data linkages needed to inform suicide prevention strategies based upon medical risk factors that significantly correlate to suicide.
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 the Governor’s Desk for Signature
SB 1468 Suicide Prevention Training
This good bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature. It will require school districts, charter schools, and Arizona teacher training programs to include suicide awareness and prevention training in their continuing education curricula. It’ll require AHCCCS to make suicide awareness and prevention training available (fortunately some evidence- based tools curricula already exist).
Starting in the 2020 school year, school districts and charter schools would need to provide training in suicide awareness and prevention to school personnel in grades 6 to 12. The bill also establishes requirements for suicide awareness and prevention training and specifically says that the training use evidenced-based training materials and instruct participants on how to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior in adolescents and teens.
SB 1085 Association Health Plans (AzPHA Opposed)
This bill was passed by the House this week and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. He’s sure to sign it. It basically provides a regulatory structure at the state level to regulate AHPs in AZ - serving to make them more available in Arizona. A primary concern for folks interested in public health and consumer protection is that AHPs don’t need to cover the essential health benefits, they can charge differently depending on gender and age.
Additionally, we’re concerned that if an employer offers a “skinny” benefit plan that barely meets the definition of minimum value (and doesn’t include important essential health benefits) families could be prevented from benefitting from the subsidies that would otherwise be available to them on the Marketplace.
Back in August (at the direction of the President) the US Department of Labor issued a final rule that established criteria for determining when employers can join in an association and be treated as an employer sponsor of a group health plan. The federal regulation loosens the rules for additional plans to come onto the market, allowing more small businesses including individuals who work for themselves to join these plans. This bill will make these plans more available in AZ.