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Connection Newsletter - U.S. House of Representatives passes COVID-19 Relief Reconciliation bill

The legislation has now gone to President Biden for his signature.

U.S. House of Representatives passes COVID-19 Relief Reconciliation bill

The house passed the senate version of the COVID-19 Relief Reconciliation bill Wednesday with a vote of 220-211. It has now gone to President Biden for his signature which is expected to occur Friday. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package contains a number of provisions affecting hospitals and health systems including those to bolster the nation’s COVID-19 healthcare response with additional resources for vaccines, treatment, personal protective equipment, testing, contact tracing and workforce development. The bill also includes additional new funding for rural hospitals and healthcare providers for COVID-19 relief, increased healthcare coverage through Medicaid and federal subsidies for insurance marketplaces and COBRA, and changes to the Medicare wage index. The American Hospital Association has prepared a summary of the provisions related to hospitals and health systems which may be viewed here.

Legislative update – Day 60

Leaders in both the Senate and House of Representatives have begun working on the fiscal year 2022 state budget as committees continue to work on passing legislation. Recent developments show one of the many proposals to terminate the current state of emergency declared by Governor Ducey on March 11, 2020, is likely to pass. No fewer than 10 bills and ballot referrals attempting to end the current state of emergency or limit a governor’s ability to declare a state of emergency have been introduced.

To date, nearly 700 bills are progressing through the legislative process while 44 have been signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey. Committees have until March 26 to hear all bills. Those not heard by the deadline will be effectively dead, although they can be resurrected in one form or fashion.  

Visit to view bill status and updates.

Arizona pilot program hopes to increase access to COVID-19 vaccine in underserved communities

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) began March 5 a highly targeted pilot program focusing on individuals in underserved communities with a goal to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine by providing transportation through taxicabs. As of March 5, more than 400 individuals from zip code 85009 had received their COVID-19 vaccine at a state-run site using the service. While providing taxicabs for those needing transportation in this phase of the effort, ADHS is exploring other transportation options that can be used to get people to mass-vaccination sites.

FDA authorizes first over-the-counter molecular test for at home use

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Friday, March 5 the first molecular test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a nasal swab at home without a prescription. Cue Health expects to produce more than 100,000 of the tests per day by this summer. It is test is authorized for use in patients age 2 and older. The test has identified 96% of positive samples from those with symptoms and 100% of positive samples from asymptomatic individuals. It includes a single-use test cartridge and nasal swab, reusable cartridge reader and mobile app.

CDC releases interim guidance for fully vaccinated individuals

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released this week a set of updated guidelines for fully vaccinated individual’s social practices. Under the guidance, fully vaccinated individuals are those who have gone through 2 full weeks after getting the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after receiving the single dose Johnson and Johnson and Janssen vaccine. Those who are fully vaccinated may forego masks or physical distancing when gathering with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups in their homes. They can also visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without wearing masks or physical distancing if that household’s occupants are at low risk of severe COVID-19. Guidelines continue to urge the use of masks and physical distancing in public spaces. In addition to the private visitation recommendations, the CDC guidelines also make recommendations for isolation, quarantining and testing for those who are fully vaccinated.

Long-term effects of COVID-19, Palliative Care Telehealth can help

While many individuals with COVID-19 fully recover, some have symptoms lasting weeks or months after they have tested negative and no longer have COVID-19. Although the CDC and other organizations are actively working to learn more about these effects of long COVID-19, patients are living with mild to more serious post-COVID-19 complications. Those experiencing post-COVID-19 complications or symptoms have a no-cost resource for their care that allows them to receive care services in their own home. Palliative Care Telehealth is a referral service that allows patients to consult with a palliative care specialist for symptom management or goals of care. After the consultation, the palliative care specialist will collaborate with the referring provider on any changes to the plan of care. Patient and provider resources and information are available at

CMS condition of participation compliance resources

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule May 2020 adding a new Condition of Participation (CoP) for hospitals in which hospitals must be compliant by May 2, 2021. In response to the final rule, Health Current has developed the CMS CoP Compliance (C3) Support services to assist hospitals in meeting the new CMS Patient Event Notifications requirement. Health Current held a webinar last month to provide an overview of the C3 services. A recording of the webinar and slides are available here. C3 Support services include alerts, CMS CoP compliance reports and recruitment collaboration. Learn more about Health Current’s C3 Support services by contacting Peter Steinken, director of community engagement, at 602-464-9641 or [email protected].

Certified coding specialist exam preparation

The Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) Exam Preparation is a refresher course designed by AzHHA Affiliated Partner NJHA Healthcare Business Solutions to assist with the challenges of studying for the American Health Information Management Association’s Certified Coding Specialist exam. Each session is designed to improve, review, refresh and renew the participant’s coding skills. The CCS Exam Preparation will include lecture, discussion, assessments and exercises and will target topics most likely to be included in the CCS exam. Participants are encouraged to have current CPT and ICD-10-CM/PCS books available during the webinars. Part 1 will be offered March 18 and 19 followed by part 2 offered March 25 and 26. Registration for parts 1 and 2 must be purchased separately. 


Upcoming Events

March 17 – Introduction to POLST workshop

The one-hour Introduction to POLST workshop equips healthcare professionals with knowledge and resources to begin using POLST, a portable medical order, in Arizona. The objectives are to describe what POLST is at the state and national level, explain why POLST is important, define the population for POLST, when to begin the conversation and who completes POLST, describe the process for completing, reviewing and updating POLST and learn the process of submitting healthcare planning documents to the Arizona Healthcare Directive Registry. Register here.

March 17 - Webinar: Billing and coding for COVID – What you need to know

So many things changed during 2020 in the coding and billing space. While some changes are designated as temporary, others—such as the expansion of certain telehealth services—may be here to stay. Healthcare Resource Group (HRG), an AzHHA Affiliated Partner, is offering AzHHA members a webinar on March 17 from 12-1 p.m. designed to discuss the changes in telemedicine as a result of COVID-19, what was included in temporary Social Security Act section 1135 waivers and what telemedicine services are expected to remain after the public health emergency is officially over. Register here.

March 19 - Webinar: Need-to-know updates on COVID-19 virus variants

COVID-19 has evolved consistently with new virus variants emerging over the past few months. Because of its evolution, it is important healthcare professionals to stay up-to-date on the transforming nature of the pandemic, including the multiple variants circulating globally. The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association is offering a 30-minute, no-cost webinar on March 19 featuring Robert A. Duncan, M.D., MPH, director of Hospital Epidemiology & Infection Control at the Center for Infectious Diseases at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center who will discuss the current state of the virus, COVID-19 variants, vaccine updates and prospects for the near future. Register here.

April 15 & 16 – AzCHER virtual conference

AzCHER’s premiere conference will occur on April 15 and 16, 2021. The two-day event (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. each day) features a packed agenda with keynote speakers addressing the recent Estes Park, Colorado wildfire and the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Eight break-out sessions will also be offered. Visit the AzCHER website to register and view the full agenda.

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