Our 2020 Arizona State of Reform Health Policy Conference is now set for December. Initially, as you know, our event was to be held in May as it was last year. However, with COVID and our development of a customized virtual conference platform, we’ve needed a few extra months to get things ready for you!
We’ll be getting our Convening Panel back together in September to talk through our upcoming conference. If your organization is not otherwise already represented, and you’d like to help us tee up topics for our agenda later this year, drop me a note to let me know. We’ll get you plugged in to the process!
With help from Michael Goldberg
1. Medicaid enrollment tops 2 million this summer
Arizona’s Medicaid rolls topped 2 million this summer, with 211,202 newly approved applications since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. 28% of Arizona residents are now enrolled in Medicaid. An AHCCCS spokesperson indicated that a chunk of people are still enrolled despite no longer being eligible due to the state order halting disenrollments.
AHCCS indicated that this a result of the agency stopping their disenrollment process as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which increased the federal matching rate for Medicaid another 6.2%. Maricopa County’s enrollment grew 9.5% from March to August and accounted for 104,382 of 163,030 new enrollees. Pima County saw a 8.3% spike, tacking on 23,509 new recipients. Apache and La Paz counties had the slowest growth rates at 3.8% each.
2. Arizona fiscal update
The Legislature’s most recent fiscal highlights showed that July General Fund revenue collections were $1.52 billion during the month, an amount which was significantly higher than any July in previous years. This was due, in part, to the state’s deferral of the income tax filing due date from April 15 to July 15. With the deposit of most final payments occurring in July this year, collections grew by 53.3% above the prior year. While the report indicated that some of this growth was expected due to the deferral issue, revenues still significantly exceeded the June Update forecast.
Also in the highlights, the Arizona Department of Corrections reported the amounts of reimbursements it received for appropriated expenses in FY 2020. The largest reimbursement increases were $5.5 million for Health Care Contract Medicaid Eligibility ($13.7 million in total) and $826,000 for Health Care Contract Staffing Offsets ($6.6 million in total).
3. Video: Dr. Leonard Kirschner
Dr. Leonard Kirschner, former President of the Arizona AARP and former State Medicaid Director, joined State of Reform in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss efforts at the state and federal levels to protect the ACA, lower the cost of pharmaceuticals, and expand Medicaid coverage. With a national election on the horizon, Kirschner touches on one question swirling around the Trump Administration should it be given another governing mandate. This video was recorded at our previous conference, prior to COVID.
“The question has always been, what are you replacing [the ACA] with? The answer has been, ‘Well we’ll think about that later.’ That’s not a good answer. Clearly there are a lot of things in the Affordable Care Act that are really ingrained in the health care system: making sure people with preexisting conditions get coverage, making sure children and young adults up to age 26 get coverage, etc.”
4. Health care initiative disqualified from ballot
A ballot initiative that sought to require a 20% pay raise for hospital workers, excluding executive and doctors, over a four year period will not appear on the ballot this fall. A Maricopa County Superior Court Judge threw out petitions submitted by SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, ruling that some circulators from the California union were not legally authorized to collect signatures.
The measure also contained a provision that would guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions should the ACA be struck down in ongoing litigation. Health care advocates had hoped to enshrine the measures before the lawsuit moves any further. AZHHA President Ann-Marie Alameddin said the suggestions in the proposed measure have been addressed in state and federal law called the initiative a “misplaced attempt by an out-of-state special interest group.”
5. ICYMI: “5 Slides: The Health Care System’s Response To COVID in AZ”
Earlier this month, State of Reform hosted our “5 Slides: The Health Care System’s Response To COVID in AZ” virtual conversation with Ann-Marie Alameddin: CEO, Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, Will Humble, Executive Director, Arizona Public Health Association, Roland Knox, CEO, Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center.
The panelists talked through response to the pandemic mounted by Arizona’s health care system and the lessons learned from having weathered one of the worst outbreaks in the country. Check out the full video to hear these leaders discuss strategies employed by medical centers to ease the strain on providers, data measuring, re-opening planning, and more.