Under the new initiative, OSHA will expand its presence in targeted “high-hazard” healthcare facilities during a three-month period from March 9 to June 9.
An important workforce bill received approval from the House Health Committee Monday afternoon. As amended, SB1309 allows any temporary license that was issued by a health profession regulatory board pursuant to the public health emergency to remain valid until January 1, 2023. We know there are currently around 1200 nurses working statewide under these temporary licenses. If you have any staff in your facility who are working under a temporary license, they are advised to apply for a regular license with their licensing board well in advance of this expiration date.
On the Senate side, SB1393 continues to move forward. The original language is related to the right to refuse treatment, which, of course, already exists in both law and regulation. The measure was amended in the Committee of the Whole on Wednesday to limit its scope to COVID-19 treatment. Although this is an improvement over the original language, AzHHA remains opposed. There is no medical or policy reason to set up a separate process for consenting or refusing COVID-19 treatment. AzHHA will continue to work to stop this problematic bill and others that are moving.
House Passes Omnibus Spending Bill and 4-Day Continuing Resolution
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, Wednesday, an omnibus spending bill for the federal fiscal year, as well as a 4-day Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through March 15. The continuing resolution prevents a government shutdown that would otherwise occur if the omnibus spending bill is not enacted by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 11. The Senate is expected to pass the continuing resolution before that deadline and take up the omnibus spending package before March 15.
In addition to funding the federal government for the fiscal year, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 provides funds for Ukraine and includes many healthcare provisions, most notably an extension of telehealth waivers for 151 days past the expiration of the public health emergency. These telehealth waivers include removing geographical requirements and expanding the list of practitioners able to provide Medicare services via telehealth. The final bill does not include additional COVID-19 funding or relief from upcoming Medicare sequester cuts due to budgetary impacts.
AHA letter urges CMS to work with Congress on Prior Authorization Waivers
The American Hospital Association (AHA) submitted comments to a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Request for Information (RFI) regarding prior authorization waivers that was contained in the CMS proposed rule for the Medicare Advantage program in 2023. In the comment letter, the AHA encourages CMS to work with Congress to require Medicare Advantage plans to waive prior authorization and other utilization management policies during public health emergencies (PHEs), especially for hospitals transferring patients to post-acute care. When plans do not waive prior authorization requirements during a PHE, patients cannot be discharged as quickly and hospital capacity is further strained, which delays patient care.
AzHHA continues to discuss this issue with the Arizona Congressional delegation and advocate for clear statutory authority to allow CMS to require Medicare Advantage plans to waive prior authorization to protect patient care during PHEs.
OSHA announces new enforcement efforts
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a focused inspection initiative this week directed at hospitals and other healthcare providers, which will supplement OSHA’s ongoing targeted enforcement efforts under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program. Under the new initiative, OSHA will expand its presence in targeted “high-hazard” healthcare facilities during a three-month period from March 9 to June 9.
In late 2021 OSHA announced its decision to withdraw its healthcare COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS), originally issued June 21—an action AzHHA recommended in its August 19 comment letter. Being that Arizona is a “home rule” state, AzHHA also submitted comments to the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) expressing concern over the federal ETS and urging the Division to work with OSHA to maximize the use of the state’s general duty clause to effectuate the outcomes desired by OSHA under the federal standards—should OSHA not withdraw the ETS.
AzHHA asked ADOSH for clarification this week on how the state will proceed with this new OSHA initiative in light of the withdrawal of the ETS. We will update members when more information is available.
COVID-19 testing and treatment
A new initiative to combat COVID-19 was announced by President Joe Biden in his State of the Union Address. Test to Treat focuses on getting individuals treated before the effects of COVID-19 get too severe. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 at a pharmacy will be able to get free antiviral treatments immediately after. The initiative will also include actions to educate individuals about the availability of new treatments and the importance of starting them soon after the onset of symptoms as well as provide information to healthcare providers about these new treatments.
During his address, President Biden also announced the availability of the second set of at-home COVID-19 tests. Those who did not request the testing kits in January may place a total of two separate orders. The at-home COVID-19 rapid tests may be ordered at covidtests.gov.
Voluntary recall for 0.9% Sodium Chloride
Braun Medical Inc. issued a voluntary recall of its 0.9% Sodium Chloride for Injection last week due to fluid leakage and low fill volume. Although no adverse events related to the recall have been reported, the biggest risk with a slow leak in the five lots of 0.9% Sodium Chloride for Injection USP 250ML in Excel is a break in sterility which poses a risk for the patient being exposed to a bacterial or fungal infection. Hospitals and other facilities should immediately stop using the recalled products. More information may be found on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s website.
FEMA funding for eligible COVID-19 costs extended
Eligible costs associated with ongoing COVID-19 recovery efforts and vaccine initiatives will continue to have 100% federal reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program. The increase is now extended through July 1, 2022 according to the White House’s Memorandum on Maximizing Assistance to Respond to COVID-19.
March 12 - Psychiatry for Non-Psychiatrists Conference
In response to the alarming rise in mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, addiction, and suicide – and the need for mental health providers – the University of Arizona College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry created a conference to train primary care physicians to more confidently care for their patients with these conditions. Learn more and register here.
March 15 - 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 the March 15 workshop, click here.
March 23 - How to Reduce Hiring Risk in 2022
Join AzHHA’s Affiliated Partner, Universal Background Screening, for a free webinar that will provide all the latest insights into critical employment screening issues and how to reduce hiring risk. Agenda topics include recent litigation and avoiding pitfalls; federal and state legislation; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Federal Trade Commission, Joint Commission, and Arizona regulatory updates; Ban the Box updates and other trends; and open Q&A. Register here.
March 24 – AzCHER Annual Conference
Reserve your seat at our upcoming annual conference March 24, 2022, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Phoenix. The one-day conference theme is Collaboration, Coordination, and Cooperation. The conference agenda features a range of topics including partner integration, healthcare workforce, supply chain integrity, resiliency and more. Attendees will hear from and directly interact with speakers from real-world events such as Colorado’s New Year wildfire. For more information and to register, visit our conference webpage here.