By Stephanie Innes, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson | March 16, 2015
March 16--A case under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court could have a significant impact on health insurance coverage in Arizona.
Health policy expert Dr. Daniel Derksen of the University of Arizona’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health says if the individual and employer mandates (tax penalties for not having coverage) are found to be illegal in the 34 affected states, insurance rates could go up.
“Many economists argue that this would precipitate the dreaded ‘death spiral’ whereby insurers are required to cover everyone, are prohibited from excluding or charging more for those with chronic (pre-existing) conditions,” Derksen said.
“Without individual and employer mandates, the fiscal risk can’t be pooled, fewer get insurance, those that keep insurance are increasingly those with chronic illnesses, and the insurance companies can’t make the margins work and charge higher premiums, which makes insurance less affordable.’
And while the subsidies of 150,000 Arizonans would be directly affected, Derksen said the entire federal health exchange could fall apart with a ruling against the government, and “it would be prudent for states to prepare for their decision when it is announced before or in June.”
Access to primary care providers in rural AZ is a problem. Our National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program and the State Loan Repayment Program are part of the solution- recruiting primary care workforce resources in those areas. Still, there’s not enough providers in rural Arizona- and 150 rural communities in Arizona need access to primary care providers.
To help alleviate this problem and support recruitment of providers in rural areas, our Bureau of Health Systems Development recently developed a partnership with the Center for Rural Health and the Arizona Alliance of Community Health Centers to support the National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network (3RNet) Program. It’s kinda like a Match.com for linking health care professionals and jobs in rural and underserved areas.
The 3RNet Program is made up of members from state agencies and non-profit organizations that work together to help many health care professionals find jobs in rural and underserved areas. They also work collaboratively to provide technical assistance to clinics about this free recruitment tool. This provides clinics with no cost marketing including tools allowing them to post online photos, detailed descriptions, maps, and other materials to attract health care professionals.
For questions about the 3RNet Program, please email the representatives from each individual agency: Ana Roscetti at Ana.lyn.Roscetti@azdhs.gov, Joyce Hospodar at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lourdes Paez at email@example.com. If you’re an employer or clinic, register to become a 3Rnet user here.
The Telemedicine & Telehealth Service Provider Directory is a service of the Arizona Telemedicine Program. The directory is a resource for hospital and healthcare administrators and other decision-makers who want to expand or improve their healthcare services to their patients, employees, clients, etc.
Jan 5, 2015 -- Describes efforts to increase Native American and Alaskan Native enrollment in the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, including creating culturally appropriate brochures, using bi-lingual outreach workers, and having mobile technologies available in the field to process sign-ups instantly.
The Rural Assistance Center has published a new topic guide on Community Health Workers in Rural Settings. Resources include a Community Health Workers (CHWs) toolkit to assist in developing a CHW program, FAQs about CHWs, and links to relevant publications, organizations and funding opportunities. Access the guide here: http://bit.ly/1zOnNBO
(November 20, 2014—Parker, Arizona) Today, on National Rural Health Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that LaPaz Regional Hospital has received a Telemedicine Grant for $316,800 through the USDA Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.
La Paz Regional Hospital plans to use the funding to serve their main hospital in Parker, Arizona and four clinical outreach sites in Quartzsite, Salome, Bouse and Parker. The hospital is the only public access hospital in the county—a county with over 4,000 square miles…and yet only 25,000 residents. The grant funds will be used to expand videoconferencing connections to this large, sparsely populated area to provide more direct contact with physicians in the participating communities.
The project is located in the Colorado River Indian Tribe’s jurisdictional area and will benefit this underserved tribal area.
The Secretary also highlighted initiatives created by the Affordable Care Act that specifically address critical health needs in rural communities.
“Delivering these programs to rural communities that often do not have access to quality, affordable medical services has tremendous economic and social benefits,” Vilsack said. “They also mean that people who live and work in rural areas will not have to travel long distances for specialized health care services.”
In addition to today’s announcements, Secretary Vilsack encouraged rural Americans to take advantage of the Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act and discussed the health care reform law’s specific benefits for rural communities.
“Rural residents have higher rates of chronic conditions. This can be exacerbated by a lack of doctors or clinics in rural communities,” Secretary Vilsack continued. “The Affordable Care Act is improving the health of rural communities and giving all families the security they deserve. No one should go without healthcare because of where they live, or be forced to leave the communities they love to get the coverage they need.”
Rural Americans suffer from higher rates of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. The Affordable Care Act has taken steps to address the unique challenges rural communities face when it comes to getting the health care they need.
One in five uninsured Americans lives in a rural area, and yet on average only 10 percent of the nation’s physicians practice in these communities. The Affordable Care Act has significantly increased the size of the National Health Service Corps, which offers scholarships and loan repayment to health practitioners in return for practicing in rural communities and other underserved areas. More than 3,500 Corps members now serve in rural areas, and an average of 86 percent of them will remain in their communities even after completing their service.
The Affordable Care Act also invests significantly in expanding services at community health centers, where 7.5 million rural Americans get access to primary and preventive care. That comes on top of the more than $3 billion USDA has invested since 2009 to strengthen health infrastructure in rural areas, building rural hospitals and health clinics and expanding access to health care in remote rural areas through telemedicine.
Not only can a lack of health insurance coverage help lead to high rates of chronic conditions, it threatens rural families’ economic health as well. Before the Affordable Care Act passed, the average rural family paid nearly 50% of all health costs out of pocket. One in five farmers is in debt because of medical bills. Uninsured individuals living in rural areas are able to use the Marketplaces to compare qualified health plan insurance options based on price, benefits, quality, and other factors with a clear picture of premiums and cost-sharing amounts to help them choose the qualified health insurance plan that best fits their needs.
Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace began Nov. 15, 2014, and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. Those who have plans can continue them without re-enrolling. However, consumers are encouraged to visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options and find out if they are eligible for financial assistance, which can help pay monthly premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs when receiving services. In order to have coverage effective on Jan. 1, 2015, consumers must enroll or update their coverage by December 15.
Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Translation services are available. The call is free.
To preview plans in your area, visit: www.healthcare.gov/see-plans/
For more information about Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit: www.healthcare.gov/marketplace
The Univ. of AZ Center for Rural Health will join the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and other state/national rural stakeholders in celebrating National Rural Health Day on Thursday, November 20, 2014.
NOSORH created National Rural Health Day as a way to showcase rural America; increase awareness of rural health-related issues; and promote the efforts of NOSORH, State Offices of Rural Health and others in addressing those issues. Plans call for National Rural Health Day to become an annual celebration on the third Thursday of each November.
Approximately 62 million people – nearly one in five Americans – live in rural and frontier communities throughout the United States. “These small towns, farming communities and frontier areas are wonderful places to live and work; they are places where neighbors know each other and work together,” notes NOSORH Director Teryl Eisinger. “The hospitals and providers serving these rural communities not only provide quality patient care, but they also help keep good jobs in rural America.”
These communities also face unique healthcare needs. “Today more than ever, rural communities must tackle accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens,” Eisinger says. “Meanwhile, rural hospitals are threatened with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that makes it challenging to serve their residents.”
State Offices of Rural Health play a key role in addressing those needs. All 50 states maintain a State Office of Rural Health, each of which shares a similar mission: to foster relationships, disseminate information and provide technical assistance that improves access to, and the quality of, health care for its rural citizens. In the past year alone, State Offices of Rural Health collectively provided technical assistance to more than 28,000 rural communities.
Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014
By CARLENE REYES
Access Across Arizona is an initiative to increase news coverage in Arizona communities often underreported by mainstream news media. Using advanced cellular broadcast technology, Cronkite News students travel to Arizona’s rural communities to produce broadcast, digital and live-television reports via Arizona PBS. This technology was made possible by a grant from the ASU Foundation and Women & Philanthropy.
Rural Health Professions Program:
• At the University of Arizona College of Medicine, of the 156 graduating participants between 2000 and 2010, 48 are practicing in rural areas of Arizona and 44 are in urban, underserved areas.
• In the 2013 calendar year, 870 health profession students from all three universities participated.
•152 medical students from Tucson and Phoenix’s UA College of Medicine campuses completed rural rotations (minimum four weeks) last year.
Source: University of Arizona
SNOWFLAKE – Dr. Darrell Brimhall knew from age 10 that he wanted to practice medicine in his hometown, but it wasn’t until high school that he realized just how important his role as a doctor would be to this small community.
WMRMC is the First Critical Access Hospital to Receive Pediatric Emergency Certification
White Mountain Regional Medical Center (WMRMC) recently became the first critical access hospital to have their emergency department certified by the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AzAAP) as a Pediatric Prepared Emergency Care Emergency Department. The certification means WMRMC meets specific criteria and is ready to provide emergency care resources and capabilities for pediatric patients. If necessary, the hospital can stabilize a child for transfer to a facility that offers more specialized pediatric care. “White Mountain Regional Medical Center is deeply committed to providing excellent emergency care to pediatric patients in Round Valley and the communities we serve. This distinction is quite an honor and is due to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Gregory Was, WMRMC’s chief executive officer.
Arizona is among five states to implement a pediatric emergency care system. Certification is voluntary and is a quality improvement process that includes matching hospital capabilities and capacity to established guidelines through a self-assessment process and a site visit by a team of peer professionals. Pediatric Prepared Emergency Care is a private/public partnership among hospitals, healthcare professionals, emergency personnel and state agencies throughout Arizona, committed to an effective regionalized pediatric emergency care system. Since 2008, the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Office of Injury Prevention has spearheaded the effort to launch the pediatric emergency department certification/regionalized system. In 2010, AzAAP established the certification, and currently conducts certification reviews and offers continuing pediatric emergency education. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Little Colorado Medical Center in Winslow has been noted as one of the hospitals in the country that has improved in submitting newborn blood tests in a timely fashion for screening. The screening is a way to identify babies that might need early treatment to prevent or minimize serious issues like growth problems, brain damage and death.
An article published in The Arizona Republic earlier this week reported that LCMC has changed its practice and is sending out samples daily to the Arizona Public Health Laboratory. The hospital now averages 2.75 days to send samples to the lab.
An investigation last year by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found hospitals across the country were sending samples past the time frame required for optimal screening, and LCMC was reported to have some of the highest percentage of delayed samples from 2008 to 2013, with a majority of the screening being submitted past the optimal limit.