Arizona House Health Committee passes four bills at first meeting of 2024


Hannah Saunders


The Arizona House Health and Human Services Committee held their first meeting on Monday. Members set their legislative goals and passed four bills. 

Rep. Steve Montenegro (R— Maricopa County), chair of the committee, said this year he hopes to pass legislation that grows the healthcare workforce, protects the most vulnerable Arizonans, increases parental rights regarding their children’s healthcare, and puts an end to the fentanyl crisis. 

Members unanimously passed House Bill 2051, which aims to provide clarity about skilled nursing providers’ reporting and survey responsibilities. It would require the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to establish a joint training session for skilled nursing supervisors, compliance officers, and investigators, along with skilled nursing and assisted living providers, to explain reporting changes to the survey process and educate those involved on how compliance with these changes will be determined. 

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Rep. Selina Bliss (R—Yavapai County), bill sponsor, said her years of experience as a bedside nurse and academic nurse educator made her realize the need for HB 2051. Both of those positions required Bliss to become accredited, which involves site visits. She explained how the academic site at the community college had a strict list of outcomes.

“The short version of this bill is it streamlines site visits in long-term care,” Bliss said. “What it allows is joint training between ADHS, long-term care surveyors, and long-term care providers. It’s going to put the two together, and that’s what I call efficiency.”

According to Bliss, this bill would not cost the state of Arizona any additional money and this bill would not become mandated. She is hopeful that if HB 2051 becomes law, healthcare facilities undergoing inspections will receive better compliance ratings. 

Members also unanimously passed HB 2113, which would allow medical assistants to perform specific tasks without the direct supervision of a medical doctor (MD), physician’s assistant (PA), or nurse practitioner (NP). These tasks include communicating documented medical advice; ordering and interpreting test results from an MD, PA, and NP; and obtaining, processing, and communicating medications or prior authorized procedures as documented and ordered by an MD, PA, and NP.

HB 2114, which included a strike everything amendment, currently creates efficiency but difficulty in increasing the marriage and family therapist workforce in a timely manner. Rep. Julie Willoughby (R—Chandler), sponsor of the bill, noted how out-of-state licensed family therapists currently have to work at another state’s facility for at least three years prior to moving to Arizona to pursue job opportunities. 

Jeremy Browning, who was with Cornerstone Public Affairs representing the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, provided public comment on HB 2114.

“We stand in support of the bill and the strike everything amendment,” Browning said. “Arizona has one mental health provider for 660 residents of the state. The average is one provider for 350 residents of the state. This ranks us 48th. I know we’re proud to be 48th on a lot of stuff—this is not a good 48 here.”

HB 2114 passed by a vote of 8-2.

HB 2183 passed by a vote of 6-4 and would allow parents equivalent access to electronic portals or similar platforms for their minor children. This bill would allow parents to access documents, records, and requests for patients that did not require parental consent, including certain emergency circumstances. Bethany Miller of the Legislative Council Center for Arizona Policy spoke in support of the bill. 

“In a lot of ways, this bill is very simple. It’s just taking the rights the parents already have in the state statute … and makes sure that carries on to online portals,” Miller said. “These portals are not just where you access your child’s medical records.”

Through equivalent access to portals, Miller said parents can more easily schedule appointments, request medication refills, and make payments. Miller mentioned how her access to her children’s medical records was cut off when they turned 12, which created hurdles and barriers to care for the family.

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