Oral Health

AHCCCS Accepting Public Comments on their Oral Health Policy Manual

These Polices are Important in Reducing Health Disparities

AHCCCS is in the process of accepting comments on their oral health policy manual for their EPSDT program- so this is your opportunity to do some administrative advocacy and provide them with your insight and comments.

Here's a link to the Manual and comment page: AMPM 431 – Oral Health Care for Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Aged Members

A Stakeholder group organized by First Things First staff (and AzPHA members) Kavita Bernstein and Vince Torres met last week and developed some priority recommendations that would improve children's oral health.  Those recommendations are listed below.

You can use This Link to get to their comment page. Below are some of the recommendations for you to consider submitting.  Please use your own voice and incorporate your own perspective.  Personalized comments have more impact than block-copy-paste ones.

The sample comments below state the page number in the Manual that the comment goes with. Please ensure to include the Policy Page Number relating to each comment.

Remember that our collective voice is stronger than one...  so please take some time to submit your comments in the next couple of weeks.  The comment period ends right after Labor Day.

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Recommendation for AHCCCS to expand provider types who can provide oral health screenings within pediatric settings to include RN, RDH and APDH. This would allow for co-location models, as well as, more flexibility for pediatric clinics in service delivery.

Page 3

Recommendation for AHCCCS to consider the use of the definitions for ‘urgent’ and ‘routine’ from the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD). This would allow for a consistent approach to screening and referral across health plans and providers.

Recommendation that AHCCCS consider a tighter timeline for urgent referrals given that three business days could span over a weekend and may be too long for a child exhibiting signs of pain, infection and swelling.

Recommendation for AHCCCS to expand provider types that can apply fluoride varnish within a pediatric setting, to include MAs.

Page 4

Recommendation for AHCCCS to consider allowing reimbursement for nutrition counseling by a dental home to align with the requirement to provide this specific service.

Page 5

Recommendation for AHCCCS to consider stronger, clarifying language that defines ‘medical necessity’.

Recommendation for AHCCCS to consider language that permits and reimburses for sealants on primary teeth as evidenced by positive outcomes seen by IHS and would be in alignment with the AAPD Dental Sealant Policy and Recommendation.

Recommendation for clarity on the definition of a dental provider – in addition, there is no definition in AMPM 100 to which health plans and providers can align.

Page 7

Recommendation for AHCCCS to consider the impact of a two tiered consent process on dental mobile clinics

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Recommendation for AHCCCS to clarify who ‘all providers’ are in new bullet point #7. In addition, recommendation for AHCCCS to assess the feasibility of pediatric clinics (and families) scheduling a child to come into the clinic solely for a dental screening. Recommendation for AHCCCS to consider language that indicates that providers should schedule the dental screening within the next EPSDT visit (if at a primary care clinic) or at the next dental visit (if at a dental home)

Recent Oral Health Research

Ending the neglect of global oral health: time for radical action

Richard G Watt, Blánaid Daly, Paul Allison, Lorna M D Macpherson, Renato Venturelli, Stefan Listl, and others

The Lancet, Vol. 394, No. 10194, p261–272

Published: July 20, 2019

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Oral diseases: a global public health challenge

Marco A Peres, Lorna M D Macpherson, Robert J Weyant, Blánaid Daly, Renato Venturelli, Manu R Mathur, and others

The Lancet, Vol. 394, No. 10194, p249–260

Published: July 20, 2019

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Conflicts of interest between the sugary food and beverage industry and dental research organisations: time for reform

Cristin E Kearns, Lisa A Bero

The Lancet, Vol. 394, No. 10194, p194–196

Published: July 20, 2019

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Richard Watt: time to tackle oral diseases

Rachael Davies

The Lancet, Vol. 394, No. 10194, p209

Published: July 20, 2019

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Promoting radical action for global oral health: integration or independence?

Rob H Beaglehole, Robert Beaglehole

The Lancet, Vol. 394, No. 10194, p196–198

Published: July 20, 2019

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Oral health at a tipping point

The Lancet

The Lancet, Vol. 394, No. 10194, p188

Published: July 20, 2019

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Legislative Session Wrap Up

Another legislative session is in the books.  All in all - a solid legislative session with some pretty significant public health policy gains.  The main areas where progress was made were in access to care, maternal and child health, assurance and licensure and injury prevention. 

There were several bills that didn't progress which would have been a public health benefit and several really good ideas which never even got a hearing- so there were missed opportunities- but overall a solid B+ session I'd say.

We had lots of help with our advocacy efforts this year. Annissa Biggane and Timothy Giblin worked hard each and every week tracking bills, doing triage, ferreting out schedules, and writing risk/benefit analyses.

Eddie Sissions carried a lot of water as usual. She has great insight and a keen ability to figure out the nuances of session and figuring out "how the water flows". Also a big help were our cadre of folks that called in to our bi weekly calls and strategy sessions.

The real key to our advocacy success is you - our membership.  The relationships you make with our elected officials and your focused advocacy efforts are super important to our success at influencing public policy.   Thank you all and well done this year!

I put together a Powerpoint summary of the 2019 legislative session to help y'all digest what happened this year.  I've got links on the pages that'll drive you to the actual bills. Take a look.  BTW- if you open the link with an Apple product like an iPad- the PowerPoint will look weird and unprofessional- so open it on a laptop and in PowerPoint.

AzPHA Action Alert: Support Comprehensive Oral Health Coverage for Pregnant Medicaid Members

The State Legislature is transitioning to focusing on the State budget.  There are a few items we'll need to ask you to press for in the next couple of weeks with the legislators in your district including: 1) preventative and comprehensive oral health services for pregnant Medicaid members; 2) increased investment in funding for the state loan repayment program and health profession residencies (especially for primary care); and 3) for funding Kids Care. This week we'll focus on Oral Health.

Please take a few minutes and send an email (or make a call) to the Senator and Representatives for your Legislative District and to urge them to include funding for preventative oral health coverage for pregnant Medicaid members in the State budget.

To make it easy, we've built a template message for you to send to your Senator and Representatives below. 

You'll need three messages in total because each Legislative District has one Senator and two Representatives.  To find your Senator and Representative go to:  https://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/

_________________________________

Here's a draft message for you to send (it helps if you personalize it a bit):

Dear Senator _______ (or Dear Representative _______),

I'm urging you consider adding a dental benefit for pregnant mothers within Arizona's AHCCCS program as you consider funding priorities for the State budget in the next few weeks. 

Adding this important benefit makes both solid public health and economic sense, and there's good evidence.

A new systematic overview of published studies has found a clear relationship between periodontal disease and pre-term birth and low birth weight.

About 7.2% of AZ live births were low birthweight - or about 5,760 of the 80,000 births every year in AZ.  The newly published suggests that periodontal disease is contributing to 1,036 low birthweight weight babies each year in AZ including 520 pre-term babies per year in our state's Medicaid program.

Nationally, the average health care cost for a low birth weight baby during the first year of life is $55,393 compared to $5,085 for a non-low birth weight baby...  meaning that periodontal disease costs the state in the neighborhood of $29M in the first year from low birth weight births that are attributable to periodontal disease compared with only $2.6M for a similar number of non pre-term births.

The small investment for this new benefit (only $178,000 in State funds and $458,000 from the Federal Medicaid authority) will result in healthier mothers and healthier babies while saving the state money.

Legislation supporting this benefit (SB1088) passed the Senate with a wide margin and both the House Health and the House Appropriations Committees have given SB1088 strong bi-partisan support.

This new benefit is strongly supported by the Arizona Public Health Association, the Oral Health Coalition and a large number of affiliated groups including the March of Dimes, the Arizona Dental and Arizona Dental Hygienists Associations, the Alliance of Community Health Centers, the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Arizona Health Plans Association.

We urge you to put funding for this new program on your list of priorities for the State budget this coming year.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Your name & Legislative District

Oral Health Research News

HRSA-led Study Reveals Use of Sealants Remains Low Among Children

HRSA’s National Survey of Children’s Health revealed that among children ages 6-17 years, only 1 in 5 had received dental sealants within the past year. Together with steps taken at home, in the dental office, or on a community-wide basis (e.g., water fluoridation), use of sealants among children helps prevent dental cavities. 

In the study, 82% of children ages 2-17 years had a preventive dental visit in the past year, but lower rates of specific preventive services: 75% cleanings, 46% fluoride treatments, and 44% tooth brushing/oral health care instructions. 

Research from this study shows preventive oral health services are lagging among young children and children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Further studies are needed to identify interventions that encourage the use of preventive services.

Read the abstract.

Arizona’s New Oral Health Plan Published

The Arizona State Oral Health Action Plan 2019-2020 Workgroup released the Arizona 2019-2022 Oral Health Action Plan this week.  The report articulates goals, delivers recommendations, and identifies strategies to improve the oral health of all Arizonans. It incorporates strategies gathered over three years of collaboration with health care stakeholders, state and regional oral health coalitions, educational institutions, professional associations, and grassroots organizations. This plan offers solutions to address the tremendous burden of preventable oral diseases that affect individuals across the lifespan by collaboratively creating a new blueprint to improve oral health and overall health.

The goals and objectives address four cross-cutting systems of care: Policy, Care, Community, and Financing.  The goal and objectives for each category begin on page 18 of the Report.  Recommendations include:

Policy—using data and stories to educate, advocating for Medicaid dental coverage for pregnant women, increasing the number of Arizonans with optimally fluoridated water, and establishing a state oral health surveillance plan;

Care —ensuring an adequate, diverse, and culturally competent workforce, incorporating oral health as an essential component of overall health and well-being through integrated inter-professional systems, and encouraging, supporting, and tracking inter-professional educational models of care;

Community—maintaining a statewide network of champions and leaders for oral health advocacy and planning, supporting evidence-based prevention and early detection programs, and implementing and disseminating consistent and uniform messaging; and  

Financing—financing oral health as an important component of overall health, funding and expanding oral health prevention, and sustaining financial support to improve health outcomes.

As is the case with any plan- the real key is translating the plan goals and objectives into public policy via administrative advocacy (policy interventions by state agencies), legislative advocacy (policy interventions like SB 1088 which would provide preventative oral health care for pregnant Medicaid members), by working with systems of care to improve inter-professional collaboration and by influencing policies by payors to drive better outcomes (e.g. teledentistry).

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 (5,760 low birthweight births a year), that means periodontal disease is potentially contributing to 1,036 low birthweight weight babies each year in AZ. 

About half of AZ births are paid for by our Medicaid program- meaning periodontal disease may be contributing to 520 low birth weight babies among Medicaid members every year.  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 a non-low birth weight baby. 

Putting the two estimates together suggests that the 520 pre-term babies potentially attributable to periodontal disease (and paid for by Medicaid) would cost about $29M for the first year of life compared with only $2.6M for a similar number of non pre-term births, a savings to the state that is much greater than the estimated cost of the benefit (less than $200K in the first 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

 

 

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

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.

_______

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

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.

Check Out AzPHA's Position on Multiple Bills

State Legislature Bill Update

More than 700 bills have so far been proposed by members of the Arizona State Legislature so far.  Our Public Health Policy Committee is busy sifting through them and looking for those that will have a public health impact.  We’ve taken public positions on the www.azleg.gov website on more than 20 bills with links to public health.  Below is a quick summary of those bills and the positions that AzPHA has taken.

Tobacco Bills

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 last Wednesday.

HB 2024 Electronic Cigarettes. Smoke Free Arizona Act (Kavanaugh) – AzPHA Position: YES

Includes e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco products and smoking for the purposes of the Smoke Free Arizona Act.  Because the Act was voter approved- this modification to the law will require a 3/4 majority of both houses.

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

This bill would basically set up a regulatory program at the ADHS to inspect and 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.

SB 1363 Tobacco Product Sales (Tobacco 21) (Carter) - AzPHA Position: YES

Tis bill would move the tobacco product (and e-cigarette) buy age to 21.  Bill includes definitions and criteria as well as penalties for vendors that sell to people under 21.

 

Maternal & Child Health

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. This bill passed the Senate Health Committee 8-0 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. This bill passed the Senate Health Committee 8-0 this week!

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.

 

Vaccines

HB 2162 Vaccine Personal Exemptions (Hernandez) -  AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill would remove the personal exemption option for parents to enroll in school when the child hasn’t had all the required school attendance immunizations.

HB 2352 School Nurse and Immunization Postings (Butler) – AzPHA Position: Yes

School districts and charter schools would be required to post on their websites whether a registered nurse is assigned to each school as well as required reports on immunization rates.

SB 1115 and HB 2471 Informed Consent (Boyer, 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.

HB  2472 and SB 1116 Vaccinations- Antibody Titer (Boyer, 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. 

 

Injury Prevention

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.

HB 2069 Texting and Driving (Kavanaugh) - AzPHA Position: Supporting SB 1165

Makes texting while driving on a highway a nonmoving civil traffic violation.  The penalty for the 1qst violation would be $100 and the second offense would be $300.  If a crash is involved the penalty would be $500 but if someone died it would be $10K.   subject to a civil penalty of $500, except that if the accident results in the death of another person, the civil penalty is $10,000.

HB 2165  Distracted Driving (Townsend) - AzPHA Position: Supporting SB 1165

A person who drives a vehicle while participating in an activity that willfully distracts the person from safely operating the vehicle is guilty of reckless driving, a class 2 (mid-level) misdemeanor.  I’m not sure if texting and driving would qualify or not- it probably does.

HB 2172  Rear Facing Car Seats (Bolding) - AzPHA Position: YES

Kids under two years of age need to be in a rear-facing restraint system unless the child weights at least 40 pounds or is at least 40 inches tall.

HB 2246  Motorcycle Helmets (Friese) – AzPHA Position YES

Motorcycle riders over 18 would be required to wear a helmet unless they pay a fee that would be set by ADOT. Violations would be a $500 civil penalty, but no points or other sanctions. 

HB 2075  Electronic Prescribing (Cobb) – AzPHA Position: Yes

Pushes the electronic prescribing requirement in last year’s Opioid Epidemic Act back to January 2, 2020 in all counties.  Being heard in House Health & Human Services Committee Thursday Feb 24 at 9 am.

Firearm Safety

SB 1219 Domestic Violence Offenses & Firearm Transfer AzPHA Position: Yes

Persons that have been adjudicated and the court rules that they may not possess a firearm must surrender their firearms to a law enforcement agency.  The law enforcement agency may then dispose of the firearm(s) in accordance with law.  People that have an Order of Protection against them must also surrender their firearms, although the law enforcement agency must return the firearm when the Order expires (after a background check).

HB 2247 Bump Stocks (Friese) – AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill would outlaw the sale of bump stocks on firearms.

HB 2248 Firearm Sales (Friese) – AzPHA Position: Yes

This bill would require a background check for all sales at gun shows.

HB 2161 Order of Protection (Hernandez) AzPHA Position: Undetermined

A person who is at least 18 years of age and who is either a law enforcement officer, a “family or household member” (defined), a school administrator or teacher or a licensed behavioral health professional who has personal knowledge that the respondent is a danger to self or others is permitted to file a verified petition in the superior court for a one-year Severe Threat Order of Protection (STOP order), which prohibits the respondent from owning, purchasing, possessing or receiving or having in the respondent’s custody or control a firearm or ammunition for up to one year.

HB 2249  Mental Health and Firearm Possession (Friese) AzPHA Position: Undetermined

An immediate family member or a peace officer is authorized to file a verified petition with a magistrate, justice of the peace or superior court judge for an injunction that prohibits a person from possessing, controlling, owning or receiving a firearm. Any court may issue or enforce a mental health injunction against firearm possession, regardless of the location of the person. Information that must be included in the petition is specified. If the court finds that there is clear and convincing evidence to issue a mental health injunction against firearm possession, the court must issue the injunction. Information that must be included in the injunction is specified.

 

Harm Reduction

HB 2148 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.

SB 1119 Tanning Studios (Mendez) – 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.

Agency Administration

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.

HB 2004 Nuclear Management Fund (Kavanaugh) – AzPHA Position: Undetermined

Assesses the Palo Verde nuclear plant $2.55M and gives it to ADEM, ADHS and other jurisdictions to compensate them for off-site nuclear emergency response plan response activities.  Being heard in House Appropriations Committee Wednesday Feb 23 at 2 pm.

HB 2280  Interfacility Ambulance Transports (Weninger) - AzPHA Position: Undetermined

A person may operate an "interfacility transfer ambulance service" by applying to the Department of Health Services for a certificate of operation with defined requirements.   The requirement to transport a patient under medical direction to the nearest, most appropriate facility as defined by federal Medicare guidelines does not apply to an interfacility transfer ambulance service with a certificate of operation.

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.  

 

AHCCCS Coverage & Private Insurance Coverage

HB 2347 Medicaid Buy-in (Butler) AzPHA Position: Undetermined

Would require AHCCCS to set up a program in which eligible people could pay a premium and receive Medicaid health insurance.

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

These bills Would appropriate funding so that Kids Care could continue after the federal match rate goes below 100% on October 1, 2019.

HB 2351 Medical Services Study Committee (Butler) – AzPHA Position: Yes

Establishes a 14-member Medical Services Purchase Program Study Committee to research and make recommendations for establishing and implementing a medical services purchase program. The Committee is required to submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor

HB 2120  Chiropractic Coverage (Barto) - AzPHA Position: Undetermined

Would add chiropractic services to the list of reimbursable services under AHCCCS.  Being heard in House Health & Human Services Committee Thursday Feb 24 at 9 am.

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.

SB 1089 Telemedicine 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. Note: this is all Title 20 language and does not apply to Medicaid (AHCCCS).

Food Safety & Insecurity

HB 2178  Milk Manufacturing License Exemption - AzPHA Position: Undetermined

A restaurant wouldn’t be required to get a license to manufacture or distribute frozen desserts or frozen milk products if the product is manufactured or distributed and sold at the same facility for on-site consumption.

HB 2186  School Meals (Udall) AzPHA Position: Yes

Schools are required to provide a school meal to a student who requests it regardless of whether the student pays for a school meal or owes money for previous meals. Local education agencies are prohibited from taking a list of specified actions relating to unpaid school meal fees, including announcing or publicizing the names of students with unpaid school meal fees, requiring a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes unpaid meal fees to work for a meal, and attempting to collect unpaid school meal fees from a student. Local education agencies are prohibited from using a debt collector to attempt to collect unpaid school meal fees.

 

Access to Care

HB 2218 State Loan Repayment (Blanc) – AzPHA Position: YES

Makes a supplemental appropriation of $500,000 from the general fund in FY2019-20 to the Department of Health Services to pay off portions of education loans taken out by physicians, dentists, pharmacists, advance practice providers and behavioral health providers participating in the primary care provider loan repayment program.  An additional $500K would be appropriated to pay off education loans taken out by physicians, dentists, pharmacists, advance practice providers and behavioral health providers participating in the rural private primary care provider loan repayment program.

HB 2376  Associated Health Plans (Barto) AzPHA Position: Undetermined

An association health plan is authorized to operate in Arizona if the plan is following federal laws and regulations, and if the plan's governing documents require the plan to be actuarially sound and the plan is actuarially sound.

Medical Marijuana

HB 2149  Cannabis Definition (Rivero) AzPHA Position: YES

Synchronizes the definitions of marijuana and cannabis in the state criminal code and the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act.  There has been some confusion in certain counties- as medical marijuana patients have been prosecuted for possessing extracts and preparations of marijuana that they bought at dispensaries. The appeal of this prosecutions will be heard by the state supreme court. This would make it clearer in state law that extracts and preparations are included in the Act.

Recently Passed Federal Public Health Legislation

Congress has passed several bills in the last few weeks related to public health.  Here’s a quick summary and links to the laws.

Improving Access to Maternity Care HR 315

This bill requires HRSA to identify maternity care health professional target areas and publish data comparing the availability of and need for maternity care health services in health professional shortage areas and areas within those areas.

Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018 HR 1318

This bill authorizes HHS grants to states to review maternal deaths, publish reports with the results.

PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2018  S 3029

This bill increases federal research on preterm labor and delivery, improve the care, treatment, and outcomes of preterm birth and low birthweight infants. 

Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – The Farm Bill HR 2

The Farm Bill reauthorizes food security programs through FY23 including Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) and SNAP nutrituon education.  It also removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which would legalize hemp production and therefore changes how CBD is regulated.

State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization Act: S 2278

This bill reauthorizes $12.5M annually through FY22 for the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to make grants to each state office of rural health to improve health care in rural areas. This bill was approved by both the House and Senate but is not yet signed.

The Action for Dental Health Act of 2018

This bill provides an opportunity to improve oral health across the country.  The bill will provide additional resources to the CDC to increase funding for groups and organizations to qualify for federal grants that develop programs and expand access to oral health education and care in states and tribal areas

CDC will still need to flesh out the grant guidance in the coming months before they put out their announcement with the application and expectations. 

PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018  HR 6651

This bill extends certain provisions of the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003.

Sickle Cell Disease Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018  S 2465

This bill reauthorizes a sickle cell disease prevention and treatment program and to authorizes funding for grants for research, surveillance, prevention, and treatment of heritable blood disorders.

Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act S 2076

This bill would create an Alzheimer's public health infrastructure across the country to implement effective Alzheimer's interventions focused on public health issues such as increasing early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.

Action for Dental Act Passed

The Action for Dental Health Act of 2018 was overwhelmingly passed by congress last week providing an opportunity to improve oral health across the country.  The bill will provide (once signed by the President) additional resources to the CDC to increase funding for groups and organizations to qualify for federal grants that develop programs and expand access to oral health education and care in states and tribal areas.

Grantees are expected to include dentistry and hygiene programs working in rural and underserved areas as well as organizations helping to increase oral health literacy and disease prevention in low-income and minority communities.  The Bill is expected to a=invest an additional $133M over the next four years.

CDC will be entering into contracts with state, county, or local public officials and other stakeholders to develop and implement initiatives to: (1 improve oral health education and dental disease prevention;  2) reduce geographic barriers, language barriers, cultural barriers, and other similar barriers in the provision of dental services; 3) establish dental homes for children and adults; 4) reduce the use of emergency departments by individuals who seek dental services more appropriately delivered in a dental primary care setting; or 5) facilitate the provision of dental care to nursing home residents.

CDC will still need to flesh out the grant guidance in the coming months before they put out their announcement with the application and expectations.

Approaches for Improving Oral Health

Poor oral health is a health disparity for low-income people and people with disabilities.  Dental illnesses significantly increase the risk of chronic health conditions, result in missed days of work and school, and negatively affect employability. According to an American Dental Association survey, approximately 33% of Americans who have income lower than 138% of federal poverty level struggle to get employed because of the condition of their mouth and teeth. 

Poor oral health can easily compound the effects of preexisting conditions and aggravate already fragile socioeconomic well-being, both at the individual and population levels. However, oral health care delivery and services can be improved through innovations in programming, financing, and workforce training. Using the population health framework, states can make significant strides towards improving their population's overall health by improving dental care access and delivery.

Below are some examples of public health policy interventions underway in the U.S in various states to address this important health disparity.

Impact of Medicaid on Access to Oral Health Services

State Medicaid programs including AHCCCS are mandated to provide comprehensive dental coverage for Medicaid-enrolled kids - but aren’t required to offer dental coverage to Medicaid‐enrolled adults. Nationally there’s an uneven patchwork of dental care coverage that impacts access to dental services. 

Arizona provides emergency dental services to all enrolled adults up to a $1,000 annual cap. But coverage alone isn’t enough to actually get care.  Many dental providers don’t  accept Medicaid coverage and nearly 49 million people are living in dental health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) across the country (HPSAs are geographic regions, populations, or facilities that are lacking sufficient healthcare providers).

Many states have used Medicaid waivers demonstrations to improve dental care. For example, California developed a Dental Transformation Initiative to increase dental care access and address the specific oral health needs of children by providing incentive payments to dental providers for achieving state-defined targets.  Here are some examples that are being implemented across the country:

Alignment with Population Specific Services

Oral health programs or pilots can also be aligned with current services provided by the state for increasing access to oral health services for specific populations.  For example, New Hampshire created a pilot program held at local WIC sites to integrate preventative oral health care for low-income women and children into existing safety net programs. It included a weekly dental clinic at each WIC site at which dental hygienists and dental assistants provided preventative care and referred participants to local Medicaid-enrolled dental providers for follow-up care.

Workforce Innovation

Last legislative session Arizona lawmakers approved a new class of dental professionals called Dental Therapists who, over time, will be about to meet some of the workforce demands in Arizona’s rural and underserved areas.  The Board of Dental Examiners still needs to develop the Administrative Code (Rules), but dental therapists will be practicing on the horizon, providing a potentially important access point in rural and other underserved areas.

Care Delivery Innovations

Advances in telehealth can also be promising avenues for improving access to oral health care too. For example, Alaska used telehealth to address its oral health needs. Given the lack of access to oral healthcare that affects their rural residents, they established the practice of mid-level oral health providers known as dental health aide therapists. Telehealth (specifically live videoconferencing) allows these aides to connect with supervising dentists in hub locations who are then able to provide professional oversight and supervision virtually. 

Families USA Issue Brief: Adult Dental Services

States have great latitude to determine the scope of dental benefits they cover for adults through their Medicaid programs. Some states cover comprehensive benefits, others cover emergency dental care and some none (AZ provides emergency coverage up to $1000 per year for all adults and comprehensive coverage for kids).  This variation in coverage matters. Without adequate dental coverage, people face barriers to getting care they need to stay healthy.

To better understand the consequences of insufficient dental coverage, Families USA conducted a survey of states that cover emergency-only dental services.  In the issue brief Families USA found:

  • States that cover emergency dental services generally cover some services to address severe pain including extractions. But most don’t provide restorative care nor cleanings that would address underlying disease.
  • In some states, Medicaid managed care plans provide plan-specific “value added” benefits.
  • State Medicaid programs pay for hospital emergency department visits when appropriate dental services are not available.
  • More comprehensive benefits and fewer prior authorization requirements would encourage provider participation.
  • Low-income seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid and Medicare for health coverage are among those affected by the lack of dental coverage.

The Families USA Issue Brief concludes that emergency-only dental coverage is a start, but states should invest in comprehensive Medicaid dental coverage for adults if they want to effectively keep their populations healthier and reduce other health care costs. Here’s the full the full issue brief.