The Arizona House’s Health & Human Services Committee met on Monday and passed a handful of bills, and while several were passed unanimously, others received greater pushback.
House Bill 2470 would provide Medicaid coverage of rapid genome sequencing as a separate payable service for members who meet certain criteria. This bill would address access to coverage of genome sequencing for critically ill infants in the state and up to one year of age.
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The purpose of this bill is to locate rare diseases that are often missed for years. Allison Bones provided testimony as a mother whose child, Travis, was born with a rare genetic condition.
“In August 2018, Travis celebrated his fourth birthday with 50 of his closest friends,” Bones said. “He was happy, adventurous, and rarely sick—until that Friday night in August, just six days after his birthday party, when Travis spiked a fever.”
Bones explained how three different medical professionals dismissed Travis’s fever as the flu. Travis passed away 20 hours after he developed a fever. It was discovered that Travis had undiagnosed isolated congenital asplenia; he was born without a spleen, which compromised his immune system.
“Through constantly expanding and improving diagnostic tools, like the rapid genome sequencing [described] in Representative Montenegro’s bill, we can change the outcomes for children like Travis,” Bones said.
The committee unanimously passed HB 2479.
“This bill is a really innovative bill,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. Teresa Martinez (R – Casa Grande) said. “This bill’s a three-year pilot program using FDA-authorized prescription digital therapeutics to help combat the crisis in our state and country that we have with opioids.”
The pilot project would receive $10 million from the Opioid Settlement Fund, and would not be a substitute for a physician and patient relationship. Data would be collected over three years in order to produce a report on the bill’s effectiveness. The bill passed by a vote of 8-1.
HB 2529 focuses on the expansion of the scope of practice and would repeal the requirement that facilities seeking expansion undergo a sunrise review. Removing the requirement would streamline the process for healthcare professionals. The bill passed by a slim majority of 5-4.
HB 2053 would allow the Nurse-Family Partnership program to create an evidence-based nurse home visitor grant program in the Department of Child Safety to prevent child neglect and mistreatment, improve maternal and child health, and promote economic mobility among families.
The Nurse-Family Partnership program, which has been active in the nation for 45 years, claims to have reduced preterm births by 18%, and child abuse and neglect by 48%. Funding would be secured for a three-year program, and would allow about 625 mothers to complete the program.
This bill would receive $15 million from the state’s general fund, and would provide grants to eligible organizations that provide services to first-time low-income expecting mothers. First time pregnant women who voluntarily enroll in the program would meet weekly or biweekly, for up to 75 minutes, with their own personal nurse from early pregnancy until their child’s second birthday. HB 2053 unanimously passed.
“HB 2053 invests in children, starting with six months at prenatal visits, up through two years of age,” bill sponsor Rep. Selinda Bliss (R – Maricopa) said. “This program had data to show that we can pay back Arizona taxpayers five to one on their investment, so that for every dollar that’s invested in the program, five dollars and seventy cents is saved in future costs for the highest risk families.”
The final bill that was considered, and unanimously passed, was HB 2346. This bill would allow outpatient treatment centers to be exempt from DHS licensure, supervision, regulation, or control if they have the same direct or indirect owner as a licensed hospital; if they are staffed by licensed healthcare providers; and if they provide notice to DHS of a decision to be exempt.
“Last year we passed a bill to take outpatient treatment centers and exempt them from the licensure process so long as they have an overseeing hospital—almost like a mothership—that was also licensed that they would be under,” Rep. Amish Shah (D – Marcicopa) said.
Shah explained how issues with last year’s bill to implement the exemption included some facilities wanting to keep their licensure and not be exempt from it. He also explained how based on the way the previous bill was worded, it had to be cleaned up to where facilities must specify to DHS if they want to be exempt or nonexempt. The bill passed by 9-0 votes.