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Legislative update

 

The House Health Committee did not meet this week due to the holiday on Monday, on the other hand, the Senate Health Committee held their first official meeting to consider bills. The agenda was relatively short, but an AzHHA priority, SB 1161, was given a “do-pass” recommendation by the Committee. This measure prohibits health plans and pharmacy benefit managers from steering patients to the pharmacies they own, as well as prohibiting the practice of “white bagging.” This is an important health plan accountability measure that protects patients and ensures hospitals, and their staff, are in control of patient care. Also on Wednesday morning, the Senate Finance Committee considered SB 1021, which limits the ability of hospitals and healthcare providers to recover in medical lien programs. This bill was also given a do pass recommendation by the Finance Committee, over the opposition of hospitals and healthcare providers. The next step for both measures is consideration by the Rules Committee, which only evaluates whether a measure is constitutional.

Procedurally, the Senate has passed its deadline for members to submit bill requests to Legislative Counsel, so the universe of bills is now slightly contained. We’re up to over 900 measures introduced this year and are certain to see many more bills drop before the introduction deadlines in a few weeks. Next week is the first full week of legislative session, and although there are a significant number of both members and staff absent due to COVID-19 diagnoses, we will see a full slate of committee hearings, starting Monday afternoon with the first House Health Committee meeting of the year.

In addition to the legislature’s work, Governor Doug Ducey unveiled his budget proposal on Friday, January 14. You may find all relevant budget documents here, and the presentation outlining his initiatives here. Of interest to the hospital and healthcare community, the Governor announced $25.7 million in a public-private partnership with Creighton University to expand their Accelerated Nursing Academy. The proposal promises to graduate 300 additional registered nurses from the program by 2030 with a commitment for those nurses to work in Arizona. It’s important to note that the Governor’s budget is a suggestion. Ultimately, the legislature holds the power of the purse to determine how to allocate the state’s budget—subject to the veto authority of the Governor.