Group Gathering Signatures for the “Healthcare Quality Improvement Act”

A group called Healthcare Rising Arizona filed the paperwork with the AZ Secretary of State with language for a voter initiative that would make some changes to healthcare law and provide a backstop for consumers in case the Affordable Care Act is overturned by the US Supreme Court now that the tax penalty for not having health insurance has been removed from the ACA by the 2017 major tax law overhaul.

Here’s the language filed by the group on Monday this week.  The folks running the campaign still need almost 238,000 valid signatures by July 2, 2020 to get on the ballot- no easy feat given the new requirements passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor which make getting things on the ballot harder. There are 4 basic components to the measure:

Consumer Protections for Health Insurance

Some consumer protections for Arizonans in case the Supreme Court overturns the ACA now that the tax penalties for not having insurance are gone.  This initiative would prevent commercial health insurance companies in Arizona from doing the following things (if the ACA is overturned):

1) denying someone health insurance because they have a preexisting condition -called the “guaranteed issue” requirement;

2) refusing to cover individual services that people need to treat a pre-existing condition- called “pre-existing condition exclusions”; and

3) charging a higher premium based on a person’s health status - called the “community rating” provision.

Hospital Associated Infections

Requires private hospitals to meet national safety standards regarding hospital-acquired infections and gives the Arizona Department of Health Services the authority to impose civil penalties if hospitals fail to meet those standards.

Surprise Billing

Protects Arizona consumers against surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers and requires refunds if patients are overcharged.

Raises for Direct Care Workers

Gives direct care hospital workers a 5% wage increase each year for four years. Direct hospital care workers include nurses, aides, technicians, janitorial and housekeeping staff, social workers and nonmanagerial administrative staff.

The fly in the ointment on this one is that last bullet. My guess is that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of organized opposition to the measure without that last piece- requiring raises for hospital direct care workers. 

Honestly, I think the provisions that require raises for direct care workers is what will make the Initiative fail, and along with it the opportunity to provide consumer protections in the health insurance market in case the US Supreme Court overturns the ACA now that the tax penalties for not having health insurance have been eliminated.

We’ll continue to review the language and evaluate whether to take a position on this and other voter initiatives that are I the works like the retail marijuana initiative and the Voter’s Right to Know Amendment.