Projections for Arizona show that COVID may not be as bad this fall and winter as it was last year when Arizona had one of the worst levels of the virus in the US. While overall vaccination rates are still low in Arizona relative to other states, estimates are that 30% of Arizonans have already contracted some form of the virus. Combined with vaccinations rates, 63% of Arizonans now have immunity against escape variants, which are increasingly likely to be more problematic than the previous variants.
But, all of that can turn quickly. It’s clear we are not out of the woods yet. And the data is empirical: getting vaccinated will mitigate against the most severe complications, and help limit the virus’s spread to people you care about.
With help from Emily Boerger
1. AHCCCS releases Competitive Contract Expansion RFP
Through a Competitive Contract Expansion RFP, Arizona is seeking proposals from current managed care contractors to expand services to individuals with serious mental illness. Through the contract expansion, health plans will be responsible for the provision of integrated care addressing physical and behavioral health needs for enrollees with an SMI designation. They will also be required to coordinate with other health plans under the contract to select and oversee a “a single, easy-to-use 24/7/365 crisis phone line and crisis response system.”
AHCCCS intends to select one ACC contractor in each Geographic Service Area. Proposals are due October 4, 2021, with contracts awarded on or before November 15, 2021. The effect date for the CCE is October 1, 2022.
2. Q&A w/Rep. Lorenzo Sierra
Last week, Gov. Ducey announced $163 million in grants for schools “following all state laws and remaining open for in-person instruction” – a move Congressman Greg Stanton describes as “punitively denying resources” to schools that have mask mandates. State of Reform Reporter Aaron Kunkler caught up with Rep. Lorenzo Sierra for a conversation on recent actions out of the governor’s office and the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After 26 legislators sent a letter to Gov. Ducey asking that he withhold federal funding from schools with mask mandates, Rep. Sierra says he gathered a group of Arizona Democrats who had survived COVID to request that the governor ignore the request and instead declare a state of emergency. On the politics of the pandemic, he says: “I would have liked to believe that this would have been one of those instances where we came together as Americans in common purpose over a common enemy.”
3. Report: hospitals noncompliant with price transparency rules
A recent nationwide study from PatientRightsAdvocate.org found 12 Arizona hospitals – all hospitals surveyed in the state – to be noncompliant with ACA price transparency rules that went into effect January 1, 2021. The study examined a random sample of 500 US hospitals to evaluate whether they met the federal rule’s two main requirements: to have a machine-readable standard charges list for all services, and to have a charges list or price estimator tool for the 300 most common shoppable services.
For the 12 Arizona hospitals evaluated, the report states that all failed to have complete standard charges information. Nearly all were marked noncompliant on their 300 common shoppable services lists, and several were noncompliant on their discounted cash price lists. Details on the hospitals’ individual determinations are available here.
4. Arizona lags in nursing home vaccinations
Arizona currently has the lowest rate of vaccinated nursing home residents in the country with 72% of residents vaccinated as of last week. According to the AARP Nursing Homes COVID-19 Dashboard, Arizona also currently ranks 6th highest in the nation for COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents with .55 cases per 100 residents.
In terms of nursing home staff vaccinations, Arizona sits in the bottom half of states at 58%. Last week, President Biden announced US nursing home staff will need to be vaccinated in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
5. Arizona’s economy continues to recover
Since April 2020, Arizona has recovered 94% of the jobs lost during the pandemic, according to a recent report from the Office of Economic Opportunity. The health care sector has fared even better with 103% of pandemic job losses recovered. Nationwide, just 75% of pandemic job losses have returned.
In its year-over-year analysis, the report shows nonfarm employment increased by 183,200 jobs in Arizona from July 2020 to July 2021. A total of 12,700 of those jobs (or 6.9%) were in the health care and social assistance sectors. Ambulatory health care services show a 7% increase compared to July 2020. Hospitals saw a 0.1% decrease in jobs over the year, while nursing and residential care facilities saw a 1.1% uptick.