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Connection Newsletter - Arizona state legislative session reaches its midpoint

To date, only 30 bills have been signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey.

Legislative update – state legislative session reaches its midpoint

As we reach the approximate halfway point of the state legislative session, about 550 of more than 1,800 proposals initially introduced are still progressing through the legislative process. To date, only 30 of those bills have been signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey. Visit to view bill status and updates.

AzHHA, healthcare partners file amici brief in support of bar closures

AzHHA, along with the Health System Alliance of Arizona, Arizona Medical Association and Arizona Nurses Association on Friday filed an amici curiae supporting Governor Doug Ducey’s Executive Order 2020-43 calling for the closure of bars. In taking this step last June, the Governor acknowledged that “community spread [of COVID-19] continues and at an exponential pace” and “essential and other health resources, including intensive care unit and in-patient facilities are limited, nearing capacity, and otherwise being exhausted.” The healthcare amici maintain Arizona law should permit appropriate responses to public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

$1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief reconciliation bill passes the U.S. House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives passed Saturday, February 27, a modified version of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 with a vote of 219-212. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package would expand subsidies for certain forms of healthcare coverage and help strengthen the nation’s COVID-19 healthcare response with additional resources for vaccines, treatment, personal protective equipment, testing, contact tracing and workforce development. The bill would also make several changes to Medicaid financing and eligibility rules to increase access to coverage, call for disproportionate share hospital allotment recalculations in certain circumstances and provide funding to the Department of Labor for worker protection activities. A detailed summary by the American Hospital Association of the legislation may be viewed here.

The Senate is considering the legislation and will amend it with its own COVID-19 budget reconciliation bill, which may pass with a simple majority vote. The version passed by the Senate will then go back to the House for a final vote. Congress is expected to pass the final legislative package before March 14, when some increased unemployed benefits are set to expire.

President Biden extends national emergency declaration

President Biden on February 24 extended the national emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic which was initially set by former President Trump on March 13, 2020. The formal continuation of the national emergency declaration, along with the recently renewed public health emergency, allows the Department of Health and Human Services to continue Section 1135 waivers and other flexibilities to ensure sufficient healthcare services and items to respond to the pandemic.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate receives FDA emergency use authorization

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Saturday the emergency use of the adenovirus vector COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by Johnson & Johnson and Janssen. The vaccine is authorized for use in individuals 18 years of age or older. It is administered intramuscularly as a single dose. Each dose is 0.5 mL. Initially stored frozen by the manufacturer, the vaccine is shipped at refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. The vaccine is estimated to remain stable for two years at minus-20 degrees Celsius, at least three months of which can be at a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. In addition, unpunctured vials of the vaccine can be stored between 9 and 25 degrees Celsius for up to 12 hours.

Johnson & Johnson and Janssen have released fact sheets for providers and for patients as required by the emergency use authorization.

Joint Commission to resume unannounced surveys

Last year The Joint Commission had delayed traditional onsite surveys due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent communication, The Joint Commission announced it will resume its normal procedures beginning March 15. The Joint Commission will continue to work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as an accrediting organization with deeming authority to conduct Medicare surveys by prioritizing organizations with a past due accreditation.

According to the Joint Commission, organizations should continue to monitor the notification of scheduled events section of their Joint Commission Connect page for notification on the first day of the unannounced survey. Additionally, the primary accreditation contact person and CEO will continue to receive email notification of the scheduled event on the first day of the unannounced survey. The organization’s existing accreditation will remain in effect until a new survey takes place and a new accreditation decision has been rendered.

Help patients navigate through the complexities of COVID-19 related symptoms with Palliative Care Telehealth

Patients experiencing acute or chronic COVID-19 symptoms and related complications have another resource available for their care. Palliative Care Telehealth is a referral source for healthcare providers across Arizona to help their patients navigate through the complexities of COVID-19 related symptoms, or those chronic conditions exacerbated by COVID-19. Patients referred to this free service will be able 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.

This program is administered by AzHHA with a grant from the Arizona Department of Health Services. There is no charge to the patient or referring provider to use this service.

Visit our website for more resources including patient and provider flyers and frequently asked questions:

Military medical personnel to provide staffing relief at Kingman Regional Medical Center

A team consisting of about 30 Air Force medical providers arrived at Kingman Regional Medical Center (KRMC) on February 28 to provide staffing support. In early January KRMC made a request through FEMA for additional nurses and respiratory therapists to provide relief for local staff. The Air Force medical providers consist of medical/surgical registered nurses, critical care (ICU) registered nurses, and respiratory therapists. With the additional personnel on hand, KRMC staff who were redeployed to COVID-19 units will now return to their regular units.


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.

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.


In the News

Arizona releases timeline for age-based COVID-19 vaccine prioritization

Can’t get a COVID vaccine? In this county, everybody is eligible
The New York Times

Study explores vaccine effectiveness
University of Arizona News