5 things Arizona: Bills we’re watching, Nurse & physician shortages, 2020 elections

The session is humming along and Spring Training is here. That’s good! But, last night’s news that the first “community spread” instance of the coronavirus is not good. It’s an indicator that the virus is already spreading among the population. Overall, death rates are low for the coronavirus. But, Arizona’s senior population faces an age-specific death rate of 14.8% for those over the age of 80 yo, based on current data. When the CDC says the disruption will be “severe,” this is in part what they mean.



With help from Michael Goldberg



1.  Noteworthy bills to watch

The legislature is roughly halfway through session and bills are being heard for the last time in their chamber of origin and by committees. HB 2765, known as the Mental Health Omnibus Bill, is a package of mental health reforms that includes increased (though light) enforcement of mental health parity, new funding for children’s behavioral health, and a new advisory board on suicide prevention. SB 1247 as amended in Senate Appropriations last week would create a hospital assessment to draw down federal dollars to fund rate increases for select services.

Reporter Monte Whaley has a story on other legislation moving this session. The list includes a pair of bills (SB 1397 & HB 2788) that would prohibit insurers from offering plans that exclude people with pre-existing conditions from treatment, backfilling the ACA protections should Obamacare get struck down in the courts.


2. Convening panel to meet next week

Next week, our Convening Panel is getting together to talk through topics, sessions, and speakers to feature for the 2020 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference. This year’s conference is coming up on May 21st, and we’d be thrilled to have you with us. “Early Bird” rates are in effect through March 13, if you want to save a few bucks.

If you have ideas for content, now is a good time to share those. I’ll incorporate the feedback into the Discussion Guide that we share with our Convening Panel to support their conversation. What topics should we tee up for May? Who should we curate to speak? In our crowd-sourced model for content development, your input is really helpful to us. So, let us know!

3. Video: Ann-Marie Alameddin

Ann-Marie Alameddin is the CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA), where she leads the organization in crafting a policy framework and pursuing initiatives that improve patient care and community health. She joins in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss legislation to combat the shortage of nurses and physicians in Arizona. Following the passage of the physician shortage bill last session (SB 1354), a bill dealing with the nursing workforce passed the Senate last week and is headed to the House.

“[SB 1354] had really important funding to increase medical school size at UA, expanded residency programs throughout the state, some loan repayment provisions – everything to address our physicians shortage in Arizona. I think particularly for Arizona, it’s important to make the economic impact that is really compelling, particularly for rural communities. If you expand a residency program in Kingman or Yuma, those physicians are likely to stay in that community.”


4. Health care and the 2020 Arizona elections

It’s still early in the 2020 election cycle, yet several statewide and congressional races are starting to take shape. Many races include health care as a topic that divides the candidates, a topic we dig into here.

The U.S. Senate race between incumbent Martha McSally and Mark Kelly will be one of the most competitive statewide races in the country. Kelly has the fundraising edge so far as he’s raked in over $20 million compared to McSally’s $12.5 million. McSally’s vote to weaken the ACA will likely play a significant role in the race. Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, Republican-turned-Democrat Tom O’Halleran is facing three primary opponents who are running on health care-centric platforms.

5. Capretta: “Healthy Adult Opportunity” initiative

Some of the biggest health news in recent weeks came from the CMS’s release of the “Healthy Adult Opportunity” initiative, or what many are calling a “block grant” model, Our State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta of the AEI breaks down the new proposal, arguing the approach may be more likely to have a net expansion effect rather than net restriction.

The approach offers some meaningful options for states to think about system reform. However, for the most part, I’d argue Arizona is well ahead of this proposal in terms of system reform. Red states might be better served simply learning from the success of the Arizona model.