5 Things Arizona: Pre-existing conditions, Whole Person Care, Andrea Kamenca

Thank you to our Convening Panel members that joined our convening last Tuesday, and those who connected with me directly over the last number of weeks. We’ll have our Topical Agenda ready for you – and registration open for our 2020 Arizona State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference – next week.

It’s been quite a month, but we’re getting our September newsletter to you right under the wire! Lots for you, so let’s get to the 5 Things We’re Watching in Arizona health care for the month of September, 2020.





With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Arizonans more concerned about insurance access than COVID

Arizonans are more concerned about access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions than the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent poll by the Commonwealth Fund. That any one issue could provoke more concern than COVID might seem jarring, but recent Census Bureau data shows that over 800,000 Arizonans didn’t have health insurance as of last year. Jim Hammond, publisher of the Hertel Report and a keen observer of market dynamics in health care, offered his analysis of the poll results and the ACA more broadly during a recent interview with KJZZ.

The poll also found that in six battleground states, Arizona included, the ability of the president to keep people with preexisting conditions insured is the most important issue by a margin of at least 5 percentage points relative to COVID-19. Related, of all battleground states included in the poll, Arizona had the highest percentage of likely voters that said they are very confident mailed-in ballots would be counted – a positive sign for election legitimacy.


2. AHCCCS puts the breaks on Whole Person Care Initiative

As AHCCCS prepares to submit its five year 1115 Waiver renewal request with CMS this December, the agency announced that it will “refrain, at this time” from the pursuit of a broader Whole Person Care Initiative. AHCCCS’s Whole Person Care Initiative was designed based on an integrated service delivery model to further the agency’s efforts to address the social determinants of health.

AHCCCS will instead pursue “smaller-scale, cost-effective initiatives” such as partnering with Health Current to source a new technical tool that providers can use to identify social risk factors and manage referrals to community based agencies. The agency will also award a contract to a single statewide housing administrator to manage all of its permanent supportive housing subsidies beginning October 2021.


3.  Video: Andrea Kamenca

Andrea Kamenca is the Executive Director of the Arizona Veterans Research and Education Foundation and a Faculty Associate at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. She joined us before the COVID-19 pandemic on “What They’re Watching” for a prescient look at the rise of telemedicine and the way in which technological change can outpace legislation.

“It’s not just telemedicine, there are so many exciting technologies coming up – artificial intelligence, virtual reality, predictive modeling, precision medicine – I could go on and on. With all of them, the technology is leaping far ahead of the legislation. What ends up happening is you end up really excited, but you can’t do it because of the legislation or because of the question of how to bill for it. If there’s a way to close the gap between the cutting edge technology and the ability to actually use it in live settings, not just in pilots or small studies, so it can go wide. That would be ideal.”


4. CO, AZ Health Information Exchanges plan to regional HIE

Health Current and the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) are planning to join forces, connecting roughly 1,320 health care organizations between both states. The partnership would create the largest-scale regional health information exchange (HIE) in the western part of the country. A central aim of the move is to increase interoperability between the two states and boost the region’s patient data exchange services.

Melissa Kotrys, CEO of Health Current, and Morgan Honea, CEO of CORHIO, said HIEs are evolving to become regional health data utilities for their communities. Both HIEs are expecting the deal to become official following the settlement of a formal agreement.

5. Two recent interviews

In the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to host a few unique conversations that are unique to State of Reform, I think, and which are worth commending to you. You’ll see more conversations like this at our upcoming 2020 Arizona State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference. More on that next week…

First, I interviewed US Senator Mitt Romney two weeks ago. We talked about where we might expect action in Congress on health policy (like surprise billing), and the challenge of working in Congress during such a polarizing time. Last week, I hosted an international conversation on the experience of COVID. That included leaders from London, Rome and Nairobi. Both are worth watching, if you’ve got some time to geek out with me.