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Connection Newsletter - Healthcare heroes, in their own words

Our healthcare workers are exhausted, overworked, overwhelmed and numb by the increasing surge of COVID-19 patients. They work tirelessly to save the lives of your family, friends and loved ones. Are you ready to help them?

Healthcare heroes, in their own words

This week, AzHHA launched a series of regionally based, public education and outreach videos. The mission is to give our frontline staff a voice in our collective effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. These compelling, emotional videos of frontline healthcare workers explain how these healthcare heroes experience the effects of COVID-19 in our hospitals. The testimonials are quite sobering. We hope the words our healthcare providers use will invoke action on behalf of those who watch.

Please join us in spreading the message on social media and throughout your respective network. Go to SlowTheSpreadAZ.org to learn more.

Arizona lawmakers in session

Arizona lawmakers met Monday at the state Capitol to convene the 1st regular session of the 55th legislature. Governor Doug Ducey gave his annual State of the State speech, albeit virtually, later the same day.

In the 22-minute speech, Governor Ducey acknowledged the significant impact of COVID-19 on the state and its economy. He defended the state government’s pandemic response and highlighted expanded vaccination efforts. He also took aim at municipal leaders who have imposed curfews and lockdowns.

Ducey mentioned several policy priorities critical to hospitals and healthcare providers including COVID-19 civil liability protection, enhancing current telemedicine laws and expanding broadband infrastructure to essential to telemedicine. He also outlined his top policy priorities for the coming year, including education funding and tax reform.

In response to COVID-19, many school districts have transitioned to online or hybrid learning models resulting in an estimated drop in state-wide enrollment of 50,000. In Arizona, school funding is tied to the number of students. The drop in enrollment means some schools will see a corresponding drop in funding. However, the Governor proposed additional funding to help students in low-performing “catch up” including summer school, tutoring and longer school days.

During his six-years in Office, Ducey has made it a personal mission to cut taxes. This year is no different. He called upon lawmakers to “work together to reform and lower taxes and preserve Arizona’s good name as a responsible, competitive state." The proposal drew praise from republican legislators and business advocacy groups; however, it was roundly rejected by democratic legislators. Many on the left believe the proposed tax cuts are intended to undermine Proposition 208 which increased taxes for high-income earners. Proposition 208 was passed by Arizona Voters in the November General Election.

2021 legislative outlook

The 55th legislature will lean significantly more to the right as a result of the 2020 elections. It is unclear exactly which issues will be prominent; however, it is likely the 2021 session will be shaped by the events of 2020 including the COVID-19 pandemic and election-related issues.

Republicans continue hold majority in both the state House and Senate, though with razor-thin margins. While the Senate has 16 republicans and 14 democrats and the House has 31 republicans and 29 democrats, both the Senate President and House Speaker have demonstrated an ability to successfully pass legislation without democratic support. This will be aided by the increasingly homogeneous composition of both majorities.

It is highly likely the primary COVID-19 related issue this session will be a push to terminate the Public Health Emergency declared by Governor Ducey in March 2020. Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita has already introduced SB1084 STATE OF EMERGENCY; AUTOMATIC TERMINATION which would end declared state emergencies after 21 days, unless extended by a vote of the legislature. Additionally, the bill would prohibit a new state of emergency being declared for a substantially similar circumstance. 

AzHHA will resume its weekly Legislative Update calls for members during the Legislative session. Please contact Greg Ensell, vice president of government relations for more detail.

Federal public health emergency extended

Alex Azar, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, has extended the federal public health emergency for an additional 90 days effective January 21, 2021. Accordingly, the Section 1135 federal waivers issued by CMS will remain in effect for an additional 90 days starting on January 21.

CMS launches 1135 waiver request online portal

Healthcare providers can now apply online for Section 1135 waivers related to the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health emergencies. CMS expects the tool to reduce the burden on providers by streamlining how they document and submit 1135 waiver requests and public health emergency related inquiries.

HHS updates guidance to hospitals on reporting of COVID-19 data

The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) updated its guidance to hospitals on the reporting of COVID-19-related data to request that hospitals report data on COVID-19 vaccine administration once per week, starting January 13. The new data fields will be available in the HHS TeleTracking system and the associated data upload template. While reporting the data fields is optional at this time, HHS has indicated it may publicly report facility-level data from these fields on the HHS Protect public portal in the future.

CMS issues guidance on directed payments

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a State Medicaid Director Letter providing guidance to states on standards and documentation for Medicaid managed care state directed payments. The guidance increases federal oversight over directed payments and offers additional information on the types of contractual payment requirements that are considered state directed payments, standards for reimbursement analyses, requirements for incorporating state directed payments into rate certifications and ties to the quality strategy. CMS has also released a revised Section 438.6(d) Preprint Form to make completing the preprint easier and clearer.

Guidance issued on social determinants of health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued guidance to help state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs use existing authorities and flexibilities to design programs, benefits and services to address social determinants of health (SDOH). While states have flexibility to design a number of different services to address SDOH, the guidance focuses on a set of services and supports that states can cover under current law, including housing-related services and supports, non-medical transportation, home-delivered meals, educational services and employment supports.

U.S. Ways and Means Democrats release plan for advancing health and economic equity

The U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Democrats have released a report on the intersection between health and economic wellbeing and a legislative framework for advancing health and economic equity. Proposed policy approaches to health equity range from revisiting the role of algorithms in clinical decision tools to diversifying the health care workforce, addressing gaps in health coverage for vulnerable populations and supporting partnerships and initiatives to improve community health.

Challenge accepted!

AzHHA and the team within the Arizona Coalition for Healthcare Emergency Response, or AzCHER, was recently recognized by the Arizona National Guard with an honorable “challenge coin.” The pocket-sized coin is often presented by a military commander as a symbol of camaraderie. This particular COVID-19 Response coin was presented in recognition of the work performed as part of AzHHA and AzCHER’s COVID-19 response mission, for the partnership with The National Guard and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (AzDEMA), and for unwavering dedication to the community’s wellbeing.

Cybersecurity tabletop exercise – free virtual presentation

AzCHER has joined the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to present a tabletop exercise on February 10 and 11, 2021 that is completely free to AzCHER members and partners.

Objectives of this exercise include:

  • Integration of Emergency Management and Information Technology functions within the healthcare organization
  • Increasing awareness of cybersecurity and the impacts on healthcare delivery
  • Increasing threat awareness and response capabilities
  • Discussing plans, procedures, roles, and responsibilities during a cyber emergency

In addition to the exercise, participants will have the opportunity to hear from federal agencies such as the FBI and department of health services about resources available to your organization.

Target audience for this event includes information technology staff, emergency management staff, public information officers and healthcare executives. There is no limit to the number of participants who can attend from the same organization.

To register for the February 10 exercise, click here. Or to register for the February 11 exercise, click here. The same exercise will be offered on the two different days. Attendees should register for their preferred date.

Questions about the event should be emailed to Robin Oothoudt, AzCHER’s Training and Exercise Manager, at ROothoudt@azhha.org.

Sponsorship opportunities available for AzCHER’ s 2021 Virtual Conference

AzCHER invites you to consider a sponsorship of the coalition’s premiere conference, to be held virtually in April 2021. The primary audience of this conference are emergency managers, planners, clinical staff, and various responders in the fields of healthcare, public health, EMS, and emergency management, among others.

While the speaker roster is nearly full with exciting presentations, we thought you may consider opportunities to reach this audience through participation, recognition, and branding opportunities. We encourage you to review the sponsorship prospectus as there is undoubtedly something that will fit your needs and budget. AzCHER is able to customize a package for you.

Should you find interest in sponsoring AzCHER’s debut conference, email Abigail Zieger at abigail@kc-a.com or call 480-893-6110.

Now available - AzHHA Consent Manual

The 2020 AzHHA Consent Manual, reviewed and updated by Coppersmith Brockelman’s Health Care Practice Group, is now available for purchase. This manual is the only comprehensive resource guide for Arizona healthcare consent laws, rules and guidelines. Learn more about consent manual updates or submit a purchase request form here.


Upcoming Events

January 22 - The Hertel Report’s Winter State of the State

The Hertel Report will be hosting, virtually, its Winter State of the State on Friday, January 22. The virtual event will include Arizona healthcare leaders as guest speakers including AzHHA Executive Vice President, Debbie Johnston, AzPHA Executive Director, Will Humble, AHCCCS Director, Jami Snyder and many more who will provide fresh insight and trends impacting our local managed care industry. AzHHA members will receive $15 off registration when using the code ‘azhha2021’. To register for the event, click here.

February 10 - Advance Care Planning: Train the Trainer

This workshop prepares community representatives and volunteers to facilitate the 1 or 2-hour community Advance Care Planning workshop. Participants will learn the basic steps needed for effective advance care planning, Arizona regulations governing advance care planning, facilitation strategies and community/state/national resources. Click here to register.

Multiple dates – Introduction to POLST workshop

The one-hour Introduction to POLST workshop equips 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. Dates for the first quarter of 2021 have been announced. Click on the date to register for a workshop.


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