Advocating for Health Policies
By John McElligott, MPH, Editor-in-Chief, Arizona Physician Magazine
‘Tis the season for advocacy. Organized medicine organizations like Maricopa County Medical Society work with partner associations, lobbyists, and elected representatives to ensure physicians are heard and priority items to improve medicine and public health are enacted and funded appropriately. For physicians living in Maricopa County, the two most likely groups to influence are the county Board of Supervisors and the Arizona State Legislature.
Board of Supervisors
Each of the five elected supervisors represents one of the county’s five districts. The supervisors set the agenda for county priorities, oversee publicly funded programs, and approve department budgets. In response to the rise of COVID-19 cases in 2020, the Board of Supervisors required everyone in Maricopa County to wear face coverings in public settings.
One department the Board oversees is the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, which protects county residents from food-borne illnesses, disasters, toxic exposures, and injury. They also address prevention of chronic diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the county health department played a large role in tracking cases, communicating with doctors about ways to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, and administering vaccines.
Physicians may attend meetings of the Board of Supervisors, submit comments for the public record, and seek meetings with their respective supervisors to discuss health priorities.
Arizona State Legislature
Arizona’s part-time legislators must pass a budget and consider a wide range of bills, some of which touch healthcare.
Bill Tracking: Search online by bill number to track the latest information for anything proposed in either the House or Senate chambers.
Request to Speak (RTS): This system allows the public to register an opinion on any bill and request to speak in a committee. You must register for an account in person at one of the RTS kiosks at the Capitol. Then, you can participate remotely. Staff at Maricopa County Medical Society can help you through the process. Call us at 602-252-2015.
Check out www.azleg.gov for more information.
Arizona Capitol Times
Published each Friday, the non-partisan newspaper covers state politics and government affairs. The journalists at Arizona Capitol Times produce frequent updates and push out information through their printed newspaper, website, The Breakdown podcast, email alerts, and events. Find the paper online at azcapitoltimes.com.
Knowing your audience and how they consume information are keys to effective social media campaigns. Count elected officials and government agencies among those who tweet, like, share, and post information and photos for the world to see. Having a social media presence can be an effective way to engage with others and influence healthcare policies.
Consider using short videos, live streaming, eye-catching photos, and influential hashtags. Learn from the best by browsing winners of the Webby Awards in the social category at https://winners.webbyawards.com/winners/social.
Experts Weigh In
We asked a couple of health lobbyists for their views on healthcare priorities, power players, and the impacts of the pandemic and economy on the 2021 legislative session. Steve Barclay, lawyer-lobbyist with Barclay Legal, PLC, and Will Humble, MPH, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association, weighed in.
Both gentlemen believe the Arizona State Legislature will debate reimbursement rates for telehealth. Will Humble predicts legislators may also try to make permanent cost-effective measures that led to better health outcomes like “incentivizing influence vaccines among Medicaid members or the ADES Developmental Disabilities program.”
Steve Barclay foresees debate on COVID-related liability protections for healthcare workers. He also predicts they will discuss a uniform prior authorization form, step therapy reform, and preserving the public health emergency powers of the governor and state agencies.
The ongoing pandemic will impact the legislators’ ability to function. Will Humble says, “The biggest challenge may be getting to the majority votes of 16 and 31, especially early in the session before the vaccine is widely distributed.” Steve Barclay believes it depends on whether all members follow safety requirements like wearing masks and social distancing. He says, “one Republican legislator sidelined with COVID-19 and the session could come to an abrupt halt.”
Arizona’s economy is faring better than most. People and businesses continue to relocate here, providing county and state officials with options for stimulating growth in healthcare. Steve Barclay says, “CARES Act monies, PPP loans and other federal and state relief helped, as did online sales tax revenue. Questions remain about AHCCCS enrollment levels, unemployment vs. job growth, the fiscal impact of Proposition 208, local government needs, and the like. But overall, I see more opportunities ahead for Arizona.”
Will Humble is also looking at effects the national shift in power will have in Arizona. He says, “With new decision-makers inside CMS and HHS, we expect to see great changes in the types of Medicaid waivers and state plan amendments that CMS will be receptive to. For example, Arizona's Medicaid work requirement waiver is likely toast for the next four years.”