AzHHA recaps ‘unique’ legislative session in 2022 Legislative Report

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) earlier this month released its 2022 Legislative Report, in which Executive Director Ann-Marie Alameddin stated that during the 2022 legislative session, AzHHA succeeded in advocating for the strengthening of the state’s health care workforce despite “some of the most troubling [proposed] legislation we’ve seen.”

 

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This year, AzHHA’s Legislative Agenda focused on 6 overarching policy priorities:

    1. “Providing financial support for hospitals and other providers facing critical workforce shortages.
    2. Holding health plans accountable for inappropriately denying coverage, delaying payment or discriminating against certain providers.
    3. Ensuring hospitals and health systems have autonomy to administer workplace vaccine programs in accordance with internal policies and procedures and as necessary to promote a healthy workplace.
    4. Improving maternal health. 
    5. Protecting AHCCCS payment to hospitals. 
    6. Promoting AzHHA member interests in all legislation impacting hospitals and health systems.”

AzHHA emphasized that it achieved its main legislative priority—bolstering the health care workforce—in the 2022 session with the passage of House Bill 2691. This legislation secured nearly $150 million to expand the nursing pipeline, fund educational institutions to increase enrollment in nursing programs, and fund health care institutions to expand their clinical training opportunities and to better transition new nurses as they enter the hospital setting.

The report emphasized that many of AzHHA’s biggest wins this legislative session were preventing “problematic legislation” from moving forward. Some of the proposed legislation that AzHHA describes as threatening to hospitals, and legislation that ultimately failed to cross the finish line, is detailed below.

  • Senate Bill 1514, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto (R – Phoenix), would have required hospitals to allow patients to be accompanied by 2 visitors at all times or their entire immediate family and a clergy member in the event that a patient will likely die within 24 hours.

Supporters of the bill claimed that hospitals’ pandemic visitation policies preventing visitors from visiting patients in health care facilities have been harmful to the patients’ physical and mental health. Supporters also said that these visitation policies have resulted in many Arizonans being unable to visit their loved ones in health care facilities in their final hours of life.

The bill also would have prohibited hospitals from banning a patient from operating and possessing communication devices. According to AzHHA, this bill would have “significantly limited a hospital’s ability to maintain reasonable visitation policies.” The bill ultimately failed to receive floor consideration in the House.

  • SB 1393, sponsored by Barto, would have prohibited hospitals from imposing any type of treatment for COVID-19, including vaccinations, on a patient who declines treatment. The bill also states that a patient has the right to leave the hospital at any time.

Supporters of the bill claimed that the bill supports the notion that individuals have the fundamental right to refuse treatments that affect only them. 

According to the report, AzHHA opposed this bill on the grounds that these rights in many cases already exist, and that the provisions in the bill would have increased liability exposure for hospitals who also have the responsibility of ensuring a safe discharge for each patient. The bill currently still sits in the House Judiciary Committee.

  • SB 1567, sponsored by Barto, would have prohibited employers, including health care institutions, from denying religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination requirements and would have established a state process for employee exemptions. The report stated that this would have put hospitals in conflict with federal obligations to CMS. 

Supporters of the bill said that hospitals and other large employers in the state are themselves interpreting what qualifies as a religious exemption for a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, claiming that this undermines the “sincerely held beliefs” of employees.

The bill failed to receive consideration in the House Rules Committee.