5 Things Arizona: Legislators talk 2021, Future of AZ health care, Budget considerations

It wasn’t entirely clear back in March when the economy shut down, that we would still be with you come the end of the year. For an outlet funded through conference revenue, rather than ads and impression counts, your support, engagement, and reading has made all of the difference for us.

After hosting our 2021 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference earlier this month, we’re featuring some of the conversations from the event which help to illuminate the road ahead come the new year. If you missed it, there are some good takeaways for you below.





With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Legislators look ahead to session

At our recent State of Reform event, Democrats and Republicans diverged on the roles that they think Gov. Ducey’s office and the Legislature should play in guiding Arizona’s PPE and vaccine distribution as the 2021 session approaches. Republican legislators recently said that they want the Legislature to be more involved while Democrats said that the time-consuming nature of legislative work necessitates more responsibility on the part of the Republican governor.

While Republicans have urged fiscal prudence with respect to the budget, some members say that mental health is an area where more spending is needed. Sen. Tyler Paceand Sen-Elect Nancy Barto both stated that they will attempt to increase funding, resources, and staffing for state mental health services in the next session. There was bipartisan consensus at the State of Reform conference that legislation expanding telehealth access would also be a priority. 



2. Health care reform in a multicultural country

Getting health care services deployed in a culturally sensitive way means meeting people where they are. It means getting out of our silos and into community. And, it’ll be one of the great challenges of our health care system in the decade ahead.

Abner Mason is the CEO of ConsejoSano, a company focused on connecting health care services in a culturally and technologically competent way. He says that the US health care system is not well-equipped to serve the multicultural country we have become. “What ConsejoSano is doing is using technology and data to understand who people are at a deeper cultural level and then engage with them in that way,” said Mason. “We’re getting great results because we’re able to build that trust and to have an engagement with the member or patient that’s two-way and allows us to navigate them to health care at the right time and the right place.”

3. Where does Arizona’s budget stand after COVID-19

Arizona needs to practice restraint in its spending and revenue decisions in the aftermath of COVID-19, says a bi-partisan pair of legislators. House Appropriations Chair, Rep. Regina Cobb, and Senate Appropriations member, Sen. Sean Bowie, say that while Legislation like HB 2752 (the “Wayfair Sales Tax”) helped Arizona increase its revenue, uncertainty lingers since 90% of the state’s budget revenue comes from income and sales taxes.

At a State of Reform panel on the where the Arizona budget stands after COVID-19, panelists were clear-eyed about the array of priorities in need of funding. Near the top of that list is the state’s “pathetic” unemployment insurance system, according to Dave Wells, Research Director at the Grand Canyon Institute. In addition to direct COVID relief, the graduate medical programs, telehealth, broadband access will be post-COVID budget priorities.


4. The incoming Medicaid enrollment spike

After exceeding a record two million enrollees this summer, Arizona’s Medicaid rolls are expected to swell again in the year ahead – a result of the counter-cyclical nature of Medicaid enrollment wherein surges typically manifest 12-15 months after a recession, according to Shawn Nau (CEO, Health Choice Arizona).

Outside of Congress modifying FMAP rules, Elizabeth Lorenz (Director, Policy Development, AzHAA) says the state can avoid painful policy decisions by moving away from the current fee-for-service model toward value-based care. Nau and Lorenz both acknowledged that a shift toward value-based care is not without potentially arduous steps, such as constraining CPT codes and making changes to the payer/provider relationship.

For more Medicaid intel, check out my conversation with AHCCCS Director Jami Snyder on how the agency functioned during COVID-19.

5. Winter State of the State convening

Our friends over at The Hertel Report are gearing up to host their 2021 Winter State of State on Friday, January 22 from 8:00 to 11:00 am. We think moving our system forward takes more engagement with one another, not less; more collaboration and community, not less. So, I wanted to highlight for you this convening, which is now celebrating, I believe, it’s 20th year.

Hosted and moderated by Hertel Report Publisher Jim Hammond, guest speakers include Jami Snyder (Director, AHCCCS), Dave Voepel (CEO, AHCA), Marcus Johnson (Director, State Policy and Advocacy, Vitalyst Health Foundation), Meghan McCabe (Deputy Director, ArMA), Ann-Marie Alameddin, (CEO, AzHHA), and Will Humble (Executive Director, APHA). Register now and get 365 days of The Hertel Report when you become a member.