5 Things Arizona: Prefiled bills, Q&A w/ Rep. Alma Hernandez, Native American health

On this Thanksgiving eve, we want to extend our deepest gratitude to stakeholders like you who engage with our content and events. Our work reporting on Arizona health policy is only possible with your involvement, so thank you very much for continuing to support us.

I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend! Thanks for reading.

 

Eli Kirshbaum
Senior Reporter/Editor
State of Reform

1. Lawmakers prefile health bills ahead of 2022 session

Since bill prefiling for the 2022 session began on Nov. 15, legislators have so far filed two health-related bills. HB 2006 would require the Arizona Department of Corrections—rather than private entities—to be the sole provider of health care to prisoners, and HB 2007 would require school administrators to report any drug violation and refer involved students to intervention programs.

Rep. Diego Rodriguez (D – Phoenix)—a cosponsor of both of these bipartisan bills—said HB 2006 is needed based on the “parade of abuses and oversights” revealed during the ongoing Arizona prison health care trial. HB 2007, he said, aims to address the root causes of student drug use rather than directing them to the criminal justice system.

 

2. Q&A: Rep. Alma Hernandez talks BH, planned legislation

Rep. Alma Hernandez (D – Tucson)—a member of the House Health & Human Services Committee—has been working to bolster the behavioral health workforce in southern Arizona during the interim. She told us she’s in regular contact with the president of the Arizona Psychiatric Society about how to address the workforce shortage and is prioritizing securing additional funding for this area.

Hernandez expects a lot of “extreme” bills to be introduced next session with redistricting on the table. She’s working on a bill that would educate more Arizonans about the benefits of getting vaccinated as well as legislation to address the shortage of elderly caretakers in her district.

 

3.  Native health leader discusses the pandemic’s impact on Native communities

According to Kim Russell, executive director of the Arizona Advisory Council on Indian Health Care, the IHS’s “closed system of care” made encouraging COVID vaccinations easier among Arizona’s Native American communities and contributed to the population’s high vaccination rate. Russell says a history of biological warfare in these communities and the population’s past experience with smallpox also likely encouraged inoculation.

She says Native Americans in the state lack the “higher level of care” they have needed during the pandemic. With many of them needing care outside the IHS system, their health care has become less affordable and accessible as they’re faced with the choice of either paying more for “outside” care or traveling long distances for IHS-covered care.

 

4. Child mortality rates climbed in 2020

ADHS’s 2021 Child Fatality Review revealed a 24% increase to the state’s child mortality rate in 2020. The department acknowledged COVID-19 as a likely driver of this increase. Arizona had a child COVID-19 mortality rate of 0.73 deaths per 100,000 children in 2020—almost three times higher than the national average.

Continuing a historical trend, racial minorities were overrepresented in the data. Black/African American children accounted for 13% of total deaths despite only representing 6% of the state’s youth population and American Indian children accounted for 10% of all deaths but only make up 5% of this population.

 

5. Report: States could be missing out on millions of Medicaid dollars

A recent Urban Institute report says 2020 Census undercounts could mean states are missing out on $552 million in Medicaid reimbursement dollars. The report estimates an overall 0.5% undercount of the US population, with certain populations and geographic areas throughout the country being disproportionately undercounted.

Some states—like Minnesota—were overcounted, meaning they will receive more than their share of reimbursement dollars. The report says the difference in over and under Medicaid reimbursements will result in a net Medicaid overpayment of $481 million over the next ten years.