Read about the latest healthcare update from the state capitol, the new HEALTHII quality metrics deadline and new grant opportunities for nursing students
Legislative update - Week Four
It’s been a strange week so far at the Arizona Capitol, where both chambers have introduced a continuation budget, meaning keeping funding levels largely flat from FY2023 with only required formula changes. Typically, we don’t see a budget until April or May at the earliest, so this is quite a departure from regular order. The budget has been advancing through the Senate on party-line votes, with Republican leadership asserting that it’s responsible to ensure the state can continue to operate beyond June 30 when the state fiscal year closes. The Democratic minority is not supportive of the “kick the can down the road” approach and has chastised the majority for their unwillingness to negotiate. The House began their budget hearings Wednesday afternoon, but Governor Hobbs has publicly stated she intends to veto a continuation budget, so even if the budget makes it through both chambers and up to the 9th floor, it won’t become the FY2024 state budget.
Monday marked the final day Senators could introduce new bills without special permission, and as of Wednesday afternoon, the bill count had almost doubled from the prior week with the total climbing to 1,399. House members may still introduce bills for a few more weeks, but they are limited to no more than seven bills each. The next important deadline is Friday, Feb. 17, when bills must have advanced through committee in their chamber of origin in order to continue through the process.
Cybersecurity alert for healthcare organizations
The Arizona Coalition for Healthcare Emergency Response (AzCHER) warned members this week of a federal alert regarding a new cyber threat. A Russian state-affiliated hacktivist group “Killnet” recently announced it is making U.S. healthcare organizations one of their targets of DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. When the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) receives credible intelligence reporting targeting US persons or entities, they work with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to conduct notifications to those expected to be or already directly impacted. View the Health Secrot Cybersecurity Coordination Center’s Analyst Note and contact [email protected] with any questions.
Hospital margins end year in difficult shape
Earlier this week, KaufmanHall released its final hospital report of the year which shows that 2022 was the worst financial year since the pandemic started. According to the report, about half of U.S. hospitals ended the year with negative margins with expenses outpacing revenues. Hospitals continue to rely on contractual labor and have had to increase salaries to remain competitive, both of which continue to contribute to increased expenses. KaufmanHall reports that “expense pressures are unlikely to recede in 2023. Hospitals that embrace better workforce management strategies, secure more stable supply lines, and more effectively negotiate with payers are likely to have better financial years in 2023.” AzHHA continues to track Arizona data and intends to release its year-end report in approximately one month.
AHCCCS Extends HEALTHII Quality Metrics Deadline to February 21
Based on feedback from hospitals, AHCCCS has extended the reporting of the Hospital Enhanced Access Leading to Health Improvements Initiative (HEALTHII) payments to February 21. The agency also decided to postpone tying $100 million in performance metrics for one year. Instead, AHCCCS will award $20 million in this upcoming year based on reporting metrics. Hospital users must register at https://empowerqmaz.thinkhts.com/. Once registration has been approved, users will be able to submit data. Each hospital must report 1-3 metrics. For additional information, please contact AzHHA’s Director of Financial Policy and Reimbursement, Amy Upston, at [email protected].
Workforce grant application remains open through state board of nursing
The Arizona State Board of Nursing (AZBN) has $25 million in grants available for licensed healthcare institutions to create or expand clinical training opportunities for nurses. The AZBN serves as the administrator of the Student Nurse Clinical Rotation and Licensed or Certified Nurse Training Pilot Program. This program was created as part of the 2022 AzHHA legislative priority, the Healthcare Workforce bill (HB2691). Three sets of grant application dates have been released, and funding will be considered for new programs and for the expansion of existing programs. Visit the AZBN website for more information.
Public Health Emergency to End May 11
The Biden Administration has announced it intends to end the public health emergency (PHE) on May 11, 2023. The PHE has been in effect since January 2020, and a number of items will expire when the PHE ends including:
- A 20% pay increase for Medicare members with a COVID-19 diagnosis
- Medicare beneficiaries to receive free COVID-19 testing (including at-home tests), COVID-19 vaccines, and certain treatments
- The requirement for private insurance to cover COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and certain treatments with no cost-sharing and without prior authorization
- Various waivers and flexibilities
The December omnibus also made changes to several items which were previously tied to the PHE. States can begin disenrolling individuals who do not meet income eligibility for Medicaid beginning April 1. AHCCCS anticipates it will take approximately 12 months to disenroll ineligible members. The omnibus bill also extended the Medicare telehealth flexibilities attributed to the PHE and the acute care hospital at home waivers and flexibilities through the end of 2024.
AzHHA members will receive more detailed information in the coming weeks. More information can be found on the Kaiser Family Foundation website. AHCCCS-related information is also available on the AHCCCS website.
ADHS awards $43.1 million to address nursing shortage
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced Wednesday it will award $43.1 million dollars to five Arizona-based nursing programs. The funding will help to counter the state’s nursing shortage by increasing the number of nursing students working to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 12-18 months. Those who benefit from the grant commit to stay and work in our state for at least four years after completing their degree.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) / Low Vision Awareness Month
February is Low Vision Awareness Month. Vision impairment—including low vision—affects millions of Americans, among them, are many older adults. Vision impairment can make it hard to do things like reading, shopping, cooking or filling out healthcare documents. In honor of Low Vision Awareness Month, AzHHA reminds you of the advance care planning educational documents and key forms available on our website in audio and braille versions.
Feb. 7 – Introduction to POLST workshops
Join physician orders for life-sustaining treatment paradigm (POLST) for their one-hour virtual workshops equipping healthcare professionals with knowledge and resources to begin using POLST 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.
New Date: Feb. 22 - Hospital Assessments and HEALTHII payments 101
AzHHA will host this annual event for members interested in learning about the two hospital assessments and the quarterly HEALTHII payments. Learn why the assessments were created, which types of hospitals are exempt from the assessments, how the amounts have changed over time, why hospitals receive quarterly HEALTHII payments, HEALTHII reconciliations and HEALTHII quality metrics. AzHHA members who have not received an invitation but are interested in attending may contact Amy Upston, director of financial policy and reimbursement, at [email protected].
Feb. 23 and March 2 - AzCHER Radiation Surge Annex Training and Tabletop Exercise
AzHHA’s Arizona Coalition for Healthcare Emergency Response (AzCHER) team will conduct a Radiological Surge Response Training and an HSEEP-compliant tabletop exercise to train and test key elements within the Radiation Surge Annex. Completion of either format will leave you with a better overall understanding of the response to an incident involving radiological materials, the Radiation Surge Annex and how to implement it into your agency’s emergency response plans. Participants may choose to join either our virtual or in-person option.
March 23 – AzCHER Annual Conference
Join us for our third AzCHER Annual Conference at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, Thursday, March 23, 2023. Our theme “Safety, Security and Situational Awareness” promises a great opportunity to learn, network and collaborate. Learn more and register here.
May 2 – Save the Date: HEOA Collaborative Conference
AzHHA’s Care Improvement team is planning its first Health Equity Organizational Assessment (HEOA) Collaborative Conference on May 2, 2023, to celebrate the efforts and successes of the HEOA Collaborative members. This interactive conference will give attendees the opportunity to share accomplishments, processes, stories, lessons learned and garner inspiration to continue the journey of health equity.
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