AzRHA & AzPHA Webinar Tomorrow RE 2018 Legislative Session

Tomorrow we’ll be participating in a joint webinar regarding next year’s legislative session entitled: “Anticipating 2018!!! Arizona’s Fifty-Fourth State Legislature”.  It’s organized by the Arizona Rural Health Association in cooperation with AzPHA and the UA’s Telemedicine Program. You can tune in from 1-2:30 pm Thursday by visiting

More information is on AzRHA’s website or by contacting Claudia Gonzalez at


National Opioid Commission Recommendations

Last week the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report setting out 56 recommendations for addressing the national opioid crisis. The recommendations address issues like federal funding and programs, opioid addiction prevention like prescribing guidelines, prescription drug monitoring programs, and supply reduction and overdose reversal.

You’ll remember that the Acting Secretary for HHS declared that the national opioid epidemic is a Public Health Emergency. Here’s the Secretary’s one sentence declaration.  Presumably some of the recommendations from last week’s final report will make their way into the various HHS agency policies (e.g. CMS). The report is quite long so I didn’t have time to read it all – but this did catch my eye:

“A key contributor to the opioid epidemic has been the excess prescribing of opioids for common pain complaints and for postsurgical pain. Although in some conditions, behavioral programs, acupuncture, surgery, as well as FDA-approved multimodal pain strategies have been proven to reduce the use of opioids, while providing effective pain management, current CMS reimbursement policies create barriers to the adoption of these strategies. In the third Commission meeting, the Commission heard about the need for proper reimbursement of non-opioid pain medications to increase uptake among healthcare providers and limit the use of opioids.”


Free Online CME Credits for Arizona Prescribers

There’s increasing evidence that opioid medications are over-prescribed and poorly managed because prescribers aren’t aware of appropriate opioid risk management strategies and non-opioid approaches to treating chronic pain. A new and free Continuing Medical Education course is now available to familiarize prescribers with current guidelines for opioid use and prescribing & educate prescribers about non-opioid strategies for pain management.

Opioid Prescribing CME Courses: Responding to the Public Health Emergency Available Online at:

Learning Objectives:

  • Manage acute and chronic back pain
  • Assess the functional effects of pain in patients.
  • Appropriately utilize a range of therapeutic options when managing patients with chronic pain.
  • Comply with current opioid risk-management practices, including the use of pain contracts and urine drug testing.
  • Educate patients on the proper use, storage, and disposal of opioid medications.

Cost: FREE for Arizona Prescribers   

Arizona Prescribers Registration:

Supported by a grant through the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families. Developed in Partnership with Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse & Abuse Initiative, University of Arizona College of Public Health, University of Arizona College of Medicine & ADHS.


Information about HHS’ Proposed Rules RE: Marketplace Insurance

HHS published an annual set of proposed rules for the Affordable Care Act marketplaces on October 27. Called the “Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters,” the rules set out expectations for insurers and the states that regulate them.  

It’s a really long proposed Rule and I haven’t been able to find the time to analyze it all (nor am I really capable of doing a detailed analysis) but I found a pretty good summary regarding the proposals.  The proposed Rule changes focus on: 1) Essential Health Benefits; 2) Qualifying Health Plan Certification Standards; 3) Rate Reviews; 4) Medical Loss Ratios; and 5) Risk Adjustment.


New Bulletins from CMS about Waiver Reviews & Approvals

Last week CMS released two information bulletins outlining activities they say they’ll undertake to improve the transparency and efficiency of the various processes for Medicaid Waivers and State Plan Amendment review and approvals. The 2 bulletins are procedural commitments to move waivers and SPAs more quickly through the review and approval process.

The “State Plan Amendment and 1915 Waiver Process Improvements to Improve Transparency and Efficiency and Reduce Burden” bulletin and the “Section 1115 Demonstration Process Improvements” bulletin are both online at


First Things First Parent Kit

From the day a child is born, the care, attention, love and support they experience lays the foundation for their future. The First Things First Parent Kit is online to help you meet the challenges of being a parent and do your best in supporting the healthy development of your baby, toddler or preschooler.

You’ll find information and resources on child development, health and safety, quality child care and school readiness:  Go to the Parent Kit.