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Anti-vaxxer bill could cost AHCCCS providers up to $23 million per year

By: - March 7, 2019 2:51 pm

Photo by Dctrlz | Wikipedia Commons

When it comes to proposed legislation that would require doctors to provide parents with voluminous amounts of information about the vaccines offered to their children, legislative budget analysts say time is money.

An analysis performed by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee determined that House Bill 2471 would cost health care providers $16.4 million to $23.5 million per year by extending doctor’s office visits involving vaccinations from between 30 to 74 minutes. JLBC said that figure is based on the number of vaccines given in 2017, along with data from the Pew Research Center on the percentage of people who believe vaccines are unsafe or are unsure about their safety, which led legislative number crunchers to assume that 16 to 23 percent of immunization visits would be extended.

JLBC described the estimate as “highly speculative,” and said it could be significantly less.

“It is difficult to determine a reasonable order of magnitude for these costs and whether physicians would spend enough additional time with patients to generate increased reimbursement costs,” the fiscal note read.

HB2471 would require health care professionals to provide parents or guardians with the following information before giving their children vaccines: the vaccine’s benefits and risks; the vaccine’s product insert provided by the manufacturer; the vaccine’s media summary from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and instructions on how to report a vaccine-adverse event.

The JLBC estimate notes that HB2471 would only cost the state money if the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the agency that oversees the state’s Medicaid program, reimbursed health care providers for the additional costs. JLBC said AHCCCS does not believe it would be required to provide that reimbursement.

If AHCCCS were to reimburse providers, the state would have to cover the full cost itself, JLBC wrote. AHCCCS receives substantial federal funding for the nearly 1.9 million Arizonans to whom it provides health care services. But because AHCCCS believes the new services that doctors would have to provide under HB2471 aren’t medically necessary, JLBC said the federal government would not provide matching funds to pay for them.

JLBC only estimated the costs that might be incurred involving patients who receive coverage through AHCCCS. Any additional costs incurred for or by patients who aren’t enrolled through AHCCCS weren’t included because they wouldn’t be eligible for reimbursement from the state. It is unknown what costs might be incurred by health care providers outside of the AHCCCS system.

Any theoretical fiscal impact from HB2471 may be a moot point. Gov. Doug Ducey told several news organizations last month that he will veto a package of “anti-vaxxer” legislation that includes HB2471, if the bills reach his desk. And none of the bills has been scheduled for a vote in the full House of Representatives.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, has not yet decided whether he will bring House Bills 2470, 2471 and 2472 to the floor, said spokesman Matt Specht. HB2472, which would require health care providers to give patients the option of getting tested to determine if they already have antibodies that would make a vaccination unnecessary, was previously scheduled to be considered by the full House on Feb. 27. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, asked that it be retained so she could round up votes and address concerns raised during a February hearing in the House Health and Human Services Committee, Specht said.

Barto did not respond to requests for comment.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”