The Arizona Legislature has passed its scheduled April 23rd end date and, as is often the case, voted to extend the legislative session further to finish work on bills and the budget. This newsletter includes our recent coverage of some of the health bills lawmakers have been developing in the past few weeks.
We’re a month out from the 2022 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference on May 26th! More on this and the event’s soon-to-be-released Detailed Agenda below.
Thank you very much for reading!
State of Reform
1. Legislative update: physician wellness, COVID mandates, and more
State of Reform Reporter Soraya Marashi has been keeping tabs on some of the key health policy moving through the legislature. Her coverage includes legislation to remove administrative hurdles for ordering HIV tests, strengthen and increase the number of physician wellness programs, regulate emergency medical technician authorities, and remove SNAP eligibility requirements for formerly incarcerated individuals. All of these bills are currently still going through the legislative process.
Two bills concerning COVID mandates are awaiting Gov. Ducey’s signature after moving through the legislature along partisan lines. HB 2616 prohibits school districts and governmental entities from requiring mask mandates for minors without parental approval, and HB 2498 prevents employers from requiring COVID vaccinations for employees. HB 2498 sponsor Rep. Jake Hoffman said: “The government’s job is not to nanny us, and not to force us into certain health behavior choices … People have agency over their own bodies, over their own lives, and over their own personal choices.”
2. Detailed Agenda for 2022 Arizona State of Reform released this week!
We’re gearing up to send out the detailed list of speakers and panels that we have lined up for the 2022 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference on May 26th! This Thursday, we will send out the Detailed Agenda for the event, so keep an eye out for this in your inbox.
Our first in-person conference in Phoenix since 2019 will feature updates from AHCCCS and ADHS leadership, robust discussion on Arizona’s crisis system, conversation about the courts’ impact on health policy, and much more. We’re so excited for you to see the list of folks we’ve curated—be sure to register if you haven’t already to guarantee your spot at this year’s conference!
3. Arizona’s lack of affordable housing to blame for rise in homelessness
“NIMBYism” is Arizona’s biggest obstacle in providing much-needed affordable housing, according to Arizona Housing Coalition Research and Policy Director Joanna Carr. The term “NIMBY,” she explained, stands for “Not in My Backyard”—which refers to more well-off individuals’ bias against the homeless and building housing for them.
Carr said Arizona’s lack of affordable housing options is the key driver of the continual rise in homeless in Phoenix and across the state. All affordable housing initiatives must be approved by a municipality’s city council and planning commission, which Carr said are almost always made up of white, middle class individuals who tend to vote against such initiatives out of fears of increased crime and lowered property values. Carr’s organization is conducting statewide anti-stigma campaigns in hopes of addressing this.
4. Gov. Ducey signs bill banning gender-affirming care for minors
Gov. Ducey signed a bill prohibiting gender-affirming surgery for individuals under 18 earlier this month, making Arizona the latest state to codify restrictions on transgender health care. Echoing the perspectives of Republicans in the legislature, Ducey said: “Throughout law, children are protected from making irreversible decisions … Many doctors who perform these procedures on adults agree it is not within the standards of care to perform these procedures on children.”
Equality Arizona’s Policy and Communications Director Jeanne Woodbury told State of Reform that while this bill isn’t as restrictive as other failed bills concerning gender-affirming care this session (it doesn’t prohibit the use of puberty blockers or hormone therapy, for example), the message the legislation sends to transgender youth is the most consequential part. By approving this prohibition, she said, Arizona is setting a precedent that permits the government to regulate transgender individuals’ access to health care.
5. Medicare and inflation
In his most recent piece, State of Reform columnist Jim Capretta evaluates how the 8.5% inflation rate over the past year—the highest in four decades—could impact Medicare. Changes to the program include higher market basket base payments to providers serving Medicare patients, physician reimbursements that aren’t reflective of the growing inflation rate, and significant increases to Medicare Advantage payments.
Capretta also notes that increased inflation will hit the pocket books of Medicare beneficiaries, since higher Medicare costs will translate to higher premiums and deductibles. While acknowledging that future inflation is uncertain, he urges policymakers to plan for a continued high inflation rate and its impacts on federal programs like Medicare. “What is clear is that planning should begin now, including by policymakers responsible for Medicare, for a scenario in which high inflation continues beyond 2022.”