Before ending the COVID-19 public health emergency, Governor Ducey signed S.B. 1309.
House and Senate Appropriations Committees held their final meetings of the year this week. Senate Appropriations met for over 12 hours on Tuesday and continue their work today to complete their agenda of over 40 bills. The strike everything amendment to SB1649, which would have revived the patient steering issue, was unfortunately not heard in House Appropriations Monday. The primary opposition—health insurance companies—were joined by a variety of non-healthcare-related labor unions who also signed in opposed to the bill. This led several legislators to reconsider their votes and the measure could not move forward. In Senate Appropriations, the hospital visitation bill supported by the healthcare community, HB2633 sponsored by Representative Nguyen, received unanimous approval.
Moving forward, leadership will continue to allow some bills to move through the final phases and send them to the Governor’s desk. However, it is common to slow the process down as leadership in both chambers works on the budget and courts votes from individual members. Legislative updates will be lighter as we move into the portion of session where we all wait for the negotiated budget to be revealed.
Governor Ducey terminates the COVID-19 public health emergency
The Arizona COVID-19 public health emergency was terminated yesterday by Governor Doug Ducey which took effect immediately. Before ending the COVID-19 public health emergency, Governor Ducey signed S.B. 1309, which allows a temporary health professional license issued by a regulatory board during the public health emergency (and that was active on March 1, 2022) to expire on January 1, 2023. In a statement, AzHHA President and CEO, Ann-Marie Alameddin commented on the end of the public health emergency saying, “Overall, COVID-related hospitalizations have returned to manageable levels. However, it’s important to know many hospitals continue to experience elevated patient visits and admissions. For this reason, we cannot let our guard down. It will be critical for the state to keep a watchful eye on hospital data reporting to be able to nimbly react and to adjust our public health response.”
Differential adjusted payment capacity reporting
With the end of the public health emergency, enhanced surveillance authority is also terminated. To incentivize hospitals to continue to report hospital capacity data, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) is offering a 0.25% differential adjustment payment (DAP) for hospitals (excluding behavioral health hospitals) that continue to report six capacity data elements. In order to receive the adjustment, hospitals must submit a letter of intent within one calendar week of the end of the PHE (4/6/22). Additional information can be found in Financial Policy and Reimbursement email sent to AzHHA members on March 25.
March 31 deadline to report on period 2 provider relief payments
Providers who received Provider Relief Fund (PRF) payments exceeding $10,000 total between July 1 and December 31, 2020, must report how they used those funds to the Health Resources and Services Administration by the end of this month. Failure to report by March 31, 2022, may result in exclusion from receiving or retaining future PRF payments.
White House releases FY 2023 budget request
President Joe Biden submitted to Congress on Monday his budget request for fiscal year 2023. The White House requested over $127 billion to fund the Department of Health and Human Services, roughly a 15% increase from 2022 funding, which includes significant increases for pandemic preparedness. The budget includes discussion of certain healthcare policies, such as behavioral health, workforce, maternal and child health, health research and development and pandemic preparedness. More details about these and other proposals are included in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Budget in Brief document. The budget request is not binding but can act as a guide for Congress and the Administration as they debate healthcare issues this year.
FDA approves second booster for COVID-19
A second COVID-19 booster was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 29. Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna booster vaccines have been approved for adults 50+. The fourth, second booster, was also authorized for immunocompromised children older than 12 when receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna was authorized for immunocompromised adults over 18 years old.
CDC updates masking guidance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded its masking guidance, allowing visitors of healthcare facilities to wear N95 masks. Politico reported last week the confusion with the previous guidance, suggesting it may have prompted some hospitals to ask patients and visitors to wear surgical masks, rather than patients’ N95s. CDC now says patients and visitors should “use the most protective form” of facemask that fits well and will be worn consistently.
Guidance on self-testing for COVID-19
As COVID-19 at-home tests become more readily available, the CDC has created a page with guidance for at-home testing. The CDC recommends at-home testing:
- If you have any COVID-19 symptoms
- At least 5 days after you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you test negative for COVID-19, consider testing again 1 to 2 days after your first test
- Before you go to an indoor event or a gathering. This is especially important before gathering with individuals at risk of severe disease, older adults, those who are immunocompromised, or people who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, including children who cannot get vaccinated yet
Order free tests at COVIDtests.gov.
AzHHA releases DataGen reports
In relationship with DataGen, AzHHA distributes reports to hospitals based on information submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This data can help hospitals understand the financial impact of proposed changes and annual updates. The reports can also assist in preparing budgets or benchmarking results with other similar organizations. DataGen generates hospital-specific reports which are sent to AzHHA hospital members as part of their membership. Below is the list of reports recently sent to members.
- FFY 2023 wage index and occupational mix analysis - Sent 2/10/2022
- Home health value-based purchasing impact analysis - Sent 3/2/2022
- Cost report model - Sent 3/7/2022
- Medicare spending per beneficiary report - Sent 3/21/2022
- Quarter 4: 2021 Quality measure trends analysis - Sent 3/22/2022
- Medicare quality programs overview - Sent 3/23/2022
- Quarter 4: 2021 Hospital-acquired condition analysis - Sent 3/24/2022
- Inpatient value-based purchasing program analysis - Sent 3/30/2022
Introduction to POLST
Interested in learning how to use the Arizona POLST form with your patients? The one-hour Introduction to POLST workshop equips healthcare professionals with knowledge and resources to begin using POLST, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, 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. To register for a workshop, click on a date below.
May 7 - Communication in Serious Illness Workshop
The objectives for this 2.5-hour didactic session are to review the need for a systematic approach to having more, better and earlier conversations about patient values and priorities in serious illness, defining a population with serious illness for whom improved communication holds many benefits, applying a structured communication tool to facilitate communication with patients with serious illness, and reviewing the value of summarizing, follow up and documentation. Learn more and register here.
May 26 - 2022 Arizona AIM Collaborative Conference
Reserve your seat for the 2022 AIM Collaborative virtual conference held May 26. This year’s conference theme, A Push for Change, will focus on the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM)’s maternal hypertension bundle. Attendees will learn about the newest evidence and strategies for timely treatment of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and integration of health equity into patient care. Register for the free, virtual conference here by May 18.
June 14 – Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference
For the past 47 years, the Arizona Center for Rural Health has hosted the Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference in collaboration with the Arizona Rural Health Association, making it one of the longest continually running rural health conferences in the United States. The Arizona Rural Health Conference provides an environment for networking and dissemination of pertinent information among professionals and community members from rural Arizona and the Southwest. Register here.
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