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Connection Newsletter - Governor Ducey announces plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Governor Ducey announces plan for COVID-19 vaccines

Governor Ducey held a press conference yesterday afternoon where he announced a series of new Executive Orders and actions to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Among other topics, Ducey outlined measures to ensure Arizonans have access to the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. Arizona is expected to receive an initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses in mid to late December, with more doses available in the weeks following. Once received, the state will begin distribution. The distribution plan prioritizes healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities, educators and vulnerable populations. In response, the Arizona Department of Health Services will be updating details of the vaccination plan.

COVID-19 vaccine provider onboarding

As the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine approaches, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), Arizona Immunization Program Office (AIPO), has begun onboarding for providers who would like to administer future COVID-19 vaccines. Both vaccine for children (VFC) and non-VFC providers who would like to administer future COVID-19 vaccines must complete the Pandemic Provider Onboarding survey forms located on the ADHS website. 

Onboarding is not an instantaneous process. It will take the AIPO time to add providers to the Arizona State Immunization Information System (ASIIS) and review requirements. ADHS recommends providers initiate the onboarding process as soon as possible.

Provider staff can go to AIPO Train to learn how to order, receive, store, administer, document and account for pandemic vaccines in ASIIS.

Senate group pushes $908 billion COVID-19 relief package

A bipartisan group in the Senate introduced a $908 billion proposal aimed at breaking the stalemate over more COVID-19 relief this week. According to an American Hospital Association publication the package includes $35 billion for the healthcare provider relief fund. The group, which is comprised of Senators Joe Manchin III, D-WV, Mark Warner, D-VA, Bill Cassidy, R-LA, Mitt Romney, R-UT, and Susan Collins, R-ME, among others, designed the proposal to include only $348 billion in new funding, instead opting to repurpose $560 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed in March.

Trump administration finalizes permanent expansion of Medicare telehealth services

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the annual Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) final rule this week prioritizing CMS’ investment in primary care and chronic disease management by increasing payments to physicians and other practitioners for the additional time they spend with patients, especially those with chronic conditions. This final rule takes steps to further implement President Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors including prioritizing the expansion of alternatives such as telehealth.

This final rule delivers on the President’s recent Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access by adding more than 60 services to the Medicare telehealth list that will continue to be covered beyond the end of the public health emergency. These additions allow beneficiaries in rural areas who are in a medical facility to continue to have access to telehealth services such as certain types of emergency department visits, therapy services and critical care services. Medicare does not have the statutory authority to pay for telehealth to beneficiaries outside of rural areas or, with certain exceptions, allow beneficiaries to receive telehealth in their home. However, this is an important step, and as a result, Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas will have more convenient access to healthcare.

White paper: Addressing Commercial Health Plan Abuses to ensure fair coverage for patients and providers

The American Hospital Association released a new white paper, Addressing Commercial Health Plan Abuses to Ensure Fair Coverage for Patients and Providers, that examines a number of tactics and the implications for patients and providers such as restricting access to services through administrative barriers and inappropriately withholding reimbursement from providers. This white paper is the result of interviews with and data collection from hundreds of hospitals and health systems around the country. The paper concludes with a push for policy interventions to protect patient access to care and streamline requirements to reduce burden and cost in the healthcare system. Click here to view and download the whitepaper.

HHS modernizes two regulations with new final rules

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released two final rules last month that will modernize and make important changes to physician self-referral (Stark law) and federal Anti-kickback statute regulations.

The final regulations will substantially expand protections for value-based arrangements (VBA) under the Stark law and establish more limited-but-important additional protections for such arrangements under the anti-kickback statute. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) addresses key issues in the current regulations that have been important in compliance efforts and several False Claims Act cases, including what is fair market value, when does compensation take into account the volume or value of referrals and when arrangements are commercially reasonable.

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) adds several other new anti-kickback statute safe harbors related to VBAs, including in-kind support for beneficiaries to maintain or improve their health, and expands other existing safe harbors—most notably the personal services safe harbor. However, the OIG’s anti-kickback statute approach across its new safe harbors does not keep pace with the robust protection provided under the Stark regulations.

Introduction to POLST virtual workshops provide healthcare professionals resources to begin using POLST in Arizona

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. Dates for the first quarter of 2021 have been announced. Click on the date to register for a workshop.

Join AzPHA's professional learning community

The Arizona Public Health Association is looking to connect you and your peers with a professional learning community. These peer group communities include public health physicians, public health policy, nurses, nutrition and physical activity, maternal and child health, oral health and more. Contact Eric Tomlon, Director of Professional Development at Professionadevelopment@azpha.org to learn more.


Upcoming Events

December 8 - The impact of telehealth on health equity from the perspective of large healthcare systems during the COVID-19 pandemic

During this COCA Call, presenters from Kaiser Permanente and the Veteran’s Health Administration will discuss how telehealth has affected health equity in their patient populations before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics to discuss include challenges and opportunities related to telehealth implementation. Click here to access call-in information.

December 16 – Arizona telehealth virtual office hour

Join the Arizona Telemedicine Program in an informational Zoom call to discuss the current telehealth landscape in Arizona. Click here to register.

December 16 - Planning to emerge smarter and more resilient after the pandemic

In this webinar, leaders from IBM Watson Health will discuss how hospitals and health systems in the U.S. can think about technology’s use for securely engaging consumers while improving performance and population health in an increasingly digital healthcare ecosystem. Click here to register.


In Other News

Arizona health leaders want immediate COVID-19 intervention, including a curfew
Arizona Republic

Healthcare workers in high demand amid pandemic, hourly rates increasing
ABC-15

Moderna Plans to Begin Testing Its Coronavirus Vaccine in Children
New York Times