Category: At the Capitol (page 1 of 4)

Community-Based Lawmaking

One of the core functions of government is to keep our communities safe. This year I sponsored and championed HB2133 which increases government transparency and protects our communities.

Today, Governor Ducey will be holding a bill signing ceremony for HB2133 which prescribes specific public notification requirements for the Department of Corrections before they open a new correctional facility.

With the help of amazing neighborhood leaders Ann O’Brien and Julie Read, we passed HB2133 into law. Now, moving forward there is a true statutory process for public notification.

I want to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedule to advocate for this common sense legislation. As your representative, I will always do what I can to protect our communities and make government agencies more transparent.

Reward legislative courage: Re-elect the brave

Editorial board, The Republic |

Voters often say they want legislators who will show courage by putting the public good ahead of their self interest.

This election will give them a chance to show if they really mean it.

Several Republican incumbents face hotly contested elections because they put Arizona’s interests first by supporting Gov. Jan Brewer’s call for Medicaid expansion. The math argument for the vote is solid; it makes the most sense for taxpayers.

But ideologically rigid Republicans don’t care. Expansion is tied to the Affordable Care Act, so anyone who voted for it is a “legis-traitor.”

Such is the state of public discourse.

Here’s why the vote makes sense. Voters approved an initiative that makes childless adults earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid. During the depth of the recession, the Legislature kicked many of those people off the rolls. Courts inevitably will require the Legislature to abide by the voters’ wishes.

The feds would pay most of the bill if the state expanded eligibility to 133 percent, with the rest coming from hospitals. Rejecting the federal offer meant the state would have to pay the full freight to get to 100 percent, with money it does not have. It seems a simple choice.

It was for state Sen. Bob Worsley and state Reps. Heather Carter, Doug Coleman, Frank Pratt, Bob Robson and T.J. Shope, though they knew their votes could cost them their seats. They now face vigorous challenges, supported by independent expenditure committees, for voting their conscience. Not to mention, putting taxpayers first.

This is a key moment for Arizona. We face a choice between a Legislature blindly marching in ideological lockstep or one of diverse voices, in which pragmatism has a place. Unblinking ideology has too often exposed Arizona to ridicule.

We prefer pragmatism. We recommend Worsley, Carter, Coleman, Pratt, Robson and Shope in the Aug. 26 Republican primary.

Disparities in cancer treatment costs shouldn’t determine patient care

Yesterday, at Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare, we celebrated Governor Brewer signing my cost-parity bill for oral anticancer drugs. HB 2078 is one of the bills I was proudest to sponsor last session.

Beginning January 1, 2016, health insurance companies will not be allowed to charge cancer patients different amounts for oral treatment versus injections or those administered intravenously. Now instead of being financially pressured into one type of treatment, patients can consult with their doctors and families and make healthcare decisions based on the patient’s individual circumstances.

With the passage and signing of HB2078, I’m very pleased that our elected officials did the right thing to stand up and represent all cancer patients. By requiring insurance plans that already cover cancer treatments to treat all cancer drugs equally, it is now up to patients working with their doctors to decide what is the best available course of treatment for their condition. This also opens up a world of affordable options for rural cancer patients who don’t live near a treatment center.

HB 2078 will grant patients more access, more affordability, and most importantly, more choice in selecting their treatments.

Arizona newborn screening

Hello friends, family and supporters,

I am pleased to report that a bill I sponsored (HB2491) to expand Arizona’s newborn screening panel to include critical congenital heart defects was signed into law by Governor Brewer last week. By including this screening, we can potentially save thousands of babies’ lives each year. You can read an Arizona Republic article on HB2491 here.

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are defects in the structure of the heart and great vessels that are present at birth. With nearly one in 100 babies born with a defect, CHD are a leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death. Tragically, many children born with a CHD do not live to see their first birthday and thousands more won’t reach adulthood. We can do more to help these fragile lives.

HB2491 enables critical screening for CHD that allows doctors to make an early diagnosis of a CHD and determine how best to treat it. Thankfully, not all patients with a CHD require surgery to repair the defect, and this early diagnosis allows families and doctors to choose the treatment option that offers the best chance for success.

In addition to screening for CHD, the law also allows the state health director to determine whether to add screening for severe combined immunodeficiency and Krabbe disease.

As a parent myself, I felt compelled to sponsor HB2491 in order to give Arizona newborns the best chance for survival. Arizona families deserve nothing less.


Thank you.

Arizona adds heart defects to newborn screening panel

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, The Republic |

Hospitals will be required to test babies for heart defects, report results to the state.

Arizona babies will be tested for at least one more life-threatening condition under new legislation that expands the state’s newborn screening panel for the first time in nearly a decade.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation into law last week, and the new requirement goes into effect early this fall.

All Arizona hospitals will be required to measure newborns’ blood-oxygen levels and report the results to the state Department of Health Services. Low oxygen levels can indicate a dangerous heart malformation, and early detection can help prevent debilitating or fatal illnesses.

Most hospitals already screen babies at birth for critical congenital heart defects, or CCHDs, using a non-invasive device that measures oxygen levels. The device, called a pulse oximeter, is also clipped like a clothespin onto adult patients’ fingertips to measure blood-oxygen level and pulse.

“This potentially saves 80,000 babies’ lives each year,” said House Health Committee Chairwoman Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, who sponsored House Bill 2491. “Now that they will be screened for these congenital heart defects, this is a big step in the right direction for Arizona to save newborn lives.”

The new law also allows the state health director to evaluate whether to add testing for severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, and Krabbe disease, after cost-benefit analyses and input from health-care providers.

The addition of CCHDs to the state’s screening panel takes Arizona a step closer to adopting the minimum threshold of federally recommended testing for newborns. SCID testing is the only test Arizona has not adopted from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended core list.

The newborn-screening program is run by the state. The number of conditions tested by other states varies — a point of contention among newborn-screening advocates, who are pushing for uniform testing across the country. They argue that babies should not live or die based on the state in which they are born.

Carter said it is important for the state to evaluate potential new screenings as technology develops, and as new diseases become known.

“What’s so unbelievable (is) that it took us 10 years just to get to this point. Hopefully, it won’t take us another 10 years to add additional screenings that could save lives,” Carter said. “I look forward to continuing to make sure that we move toward the complete federal recommended panel for newborn screenings.”

The diseases that are tested for within 24 to 48 hours of birth are rare but can be severe or deadly if not caught early. Families can end up spending tens of thousands of dollars in what is described as a “diagnostic odyssey,” hoping to figure out just what’s wrong with their babies. By the time they find out, it may be too late.

Screenings of newborns are designed to help doctors treat those diseases before they become debilitating or deadly.

The state health department will move quickly to add CCHD testing and reporting requirements to the newborn-screening panel, said ADHS Director Will Humble.

“The screening is pretty much happening throughout the state. Where the disconnect is sometimes happening is on the reporting side,” Humble said. “It’ll help us close that feedback loop with the reporting so we can make sure that pediatricians are aware of the issue more quickly, so that they’re in a better position to do quality medical management in a timely way.”

William Mueller’s first visit to the pediatrician was at 19 days old. The doctor heard something that didn’t sound right and sent him to a cardiologist, who found he was born with five heart defects.

He had lifesaving surgery at 3 months old.

William is now 9. He plays sports and practices piano. He testified before House and Senate committees, urging legislators to add CCHDs to the newborn-screening panel.

“I’m lucky,” he said, standing on a stool to reach the microphone. “Not all kids are as lucky.”

His mother, Nicole Olmstead, now government-relations director for the American Heart Association of Arizona, said she was thrilled Brewer signed the bill.

“From now on, Arizona parents will know that their newborns had been screened for potentially deadly heart defects,” Olmstead said.

The heart association and March of Dimes Arizonalobbied for the bill, along with families of babies who suffered from the three conditions listed in HB 2491. Carter said the work of advocacy groups was crucial, and testimony from families helped put faces on the issues.

Now, ADHS must do cost-benefit analyses and hold stakeholder meetings to help decide whether to add SCID and Krabbe disease to the panel. Priority diseases added to the newborn-screening panel are those that have a reliable test that is cost-effective, and those for which early intervention can lead to treatment and management. The two diseases being considered will be weighed against those criteria, Humble said.

SCID is treatable. If left untreated, it can lead to repeated infections or death. But testing for SCID requires new equipment and technology at the state lab, and can be expensive.

Under the new law, the state health director now can designate labs other than the state’s own to test for conditions added to the screening panel. It gives the state an option to explore labs that are privately owned or run by other states if it would cost less than to process the sample at the Arizona state lab.

There is no known cure forKrabbe disease, a rare degenerative disorder that eventually paralyzes all muscle motion. There is debate across the country over the effectiveness of screening for that reason. However, bone-marrow transplants can slow its symptoms.

If Arizona begins testing for Krabbe disease, it would be one of just a handful of states that do so. Krabbe is not on the federal core list of recommended diseases to test for.

The new law also establishes within ADHS an advisory committee on vaccine financing and availability. The committee is required to submit recommendations regarding vaccines for newborns, children and adolescents to the Governor’s Office and the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2015.

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