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June 29, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

AHCCCS Changes

  |   Video
  • The state's Medicaid program and the upcoming enrollment freeze.
  • Monica Coury - AHCCCS Assistant Director
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: medicaid, health, government,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: On Friday the state's Medicaid program, known as AHCCCS, will stop enrolling childless adults. The freeze is expected to save the state about $200 million in fiscal year 2012. The actual savings will depend on the number of people currently enrolled in AHCCCS who lose their eligibility and fall off the rolls. Here with more on the freeze is Monica Coury, assistant director of AHCCCS with the office of intergovernmental relations. In basic terms, what happens July 1st?

Monica Coury: On July 1st, we are freezing enrollment for a segment of our population that we refer to as the childless adults. In AHCCCS, we currently serve 1.35 million Arizonans. And that covers the disabled, the elderly, pregnant women, and children. The childless adult population is an extra population that we in the state cover, which is an unusual population for the Medicaid category. So about 225,000 individuals fall into that category.

Ted Simons: Who fall under the category, and give us the percentage of the poverty level, and what that means in real dollars.

Monica Coury: It is for individuals who are between 0-100% of the federal poverty level. You need to make about $903 a month or less.

Ted Simons: And that -- previous to this freeze, it was up -- how much more than that $900?

Monica Coury: It's always been from 0-100% of the federal poverty level in terms of our coverage for the childless adult population.
Ted Simons: So what about parents? Someone seems like they're above --

Monica Coury: there are some categories within our program that we do cover over the hundred percent of the federal poverty level. Those are mostly children, pregnant women, our long-term care population that serves the disabled, and the elderly and physically disabled. Those categories are over the 100% limit are.

Ted Simons: Do they stay over the hundred percent limit come July 1st?

Monica Coury: Nothing changes for the rest of our population. So this will only just stop accepting applications for individuals who fall under that childless adult category. So it norm -- what normally happens is an individual applies for the AHCCCS program, we screen them for every possible eligibility category. We check if they're -- they could fall in the pregnant woman category, child, receiving TANF, or SSi, social security income. Are they disabled? If they fall into any of those categories, they will still be made eligible for the AHCCCS program. What happens now is anyone who doesn't fall into any one of those traditional Medicaid categories gets put into the childless adult category. So on July 1 we will simply stop screening for the childless adult category. We will still screen for all the other categories like normal.

Ted Simons: What if someone, let's say, applies today, and the application can't be processed until after July 1st. And this person, after July 1st, would not have been accepted but would be accepted before July 1st. What happens?

Monica Coury: As long as you get your application in before July 1, even if we can't get to that application and process it until after July 1, you will still be made eligible.

Ted Simons: Have all the people affected by this freeze, have they been notified?

Monica Coury: Once we get federal approval, then we will send out a mass notice to all individuals enrolled in the childless adult category making them aware of the fact that this program has now been frozen, and that they need to make sure to comply with redetermination. That is, their annual renewal. We will also send a notice to the rest of the AHCCCS population letting them know that they are not being impacted by the enrollment freeze.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about people with serious mental illness. How are they affected by this AHCCCS freeze?
Monica Coury: There are some individuals in our childless adult population that have been designated seriously mentally ill. We are moving those into the -- we already have moved those individuals into a different eligibility category, which we refer to as SSi-MAO. In that category it serves the disabled population. Most seriously mentally ill individuals will likely meet the federal criteria of disability, but they will at their annual renewal, have to go through that separate process to make sure they meet that criteria. If they don't meet that criteria, we will put them back into the childless adult population.

Ted Simons: And if they don't meet that deadline, because there are some folks with serious mental illness who have trouble with things like deadlines, what happens?

Monica Coury: You mean if they haven't already applied and aren't on the program?

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Monica Coury: Well, we would hope that there are a number of providers out there who do provide assistance to the seriously mentally ill population. And we also have been working with the department of behavioral health, behavioral health services at the department of health, and our regional health behavioral health authorities, and a number of other providers that serve that population. So we're hoping that we've gotten enough information out to the community to help assist those individuals.

Ted Simons: The folks with aids, HIV, how are they affected?

Monica Coury: There are about 1200 individuals currently enrolled in the childless adult population who have a diagnosis of HIV-aids. They will not lose their coverage, just like everybody else in the childless adult population won't lose their coverage as of July 1. But if we notice that one of those individuals was HIV-aids does not meet the annual renewal deadline and therefore loses coverage because they didn't comply with that requirement, we will transfer them to that other category for the disabled, called SSSI-MAO and they will not have a break in coverage. They will have to comply that annual renewal.

Ted Simons: OK. Folks 65 and over, folks 65 and younger on Medicare. How are they affected?

Monica Coury: They are also being transferred to a different eligibility category. So as anyone ages into 65, they are considered elderly, and categorically eligible for the Medicaid program. So they will be transitioned so that there isn't any issue regarding their eligibility.

Ted Simons: And for folks who stay on the program, I guess for everyone involved with the program, the reapplication now, that time frame has changed. Correct? It's six months as opposed to a year?

Monica Coury: That hasn't changed yet. That is a proposal that is still pending before the federal government, and we won't hear back on that until the new waiver cycle, which would be October 1st. So that is not part of the July 1 freeze.

Ted Simons: OK. But that is something that is in the works awaiting federal approval it.

Monica Coury: it has to be approved by our federal partners.

Ted Simons: It just seems a lot of stuff has to be approved by the feds. There's a waiting game. What's -- give us an update on what's going on.

Monica Coury: Well, what has to be approved in order for the July 1 freeze to take effect is our phase-out plan. And you can see different drafts of that plan on our website. That plan is basically our way of showing that we're checking for eligibility in other categories, making sure that people enrolled in the childless adult population shouldn't be in some other area, want to follow up with people if they have additional information, if they become pregnant, if they have a change in their household situation or something like that. So that's what that plan is. That plan is what has to be approved by our federal partners before we can begin the July 1 freeze, and we've been working we collaboratively with them. We expect to hear something from them tomorrow.

Ted Simons: Last question, what is the department doing to be proactive with folks -- we refer to this earlier, seriously mentally ill, homeless folks who will critics are saying a large number of these people will wind up dropping off this program in one way, shape, or form. It's going to be more misery for patients, a lot of chaos in emergency rooms. We've heard all sorts of response and reactions as to what could happen. What is the department doing to try to keep those things from happening?

Monica Coury: Well, there's only so much that we can do. We will rely in large part on our stakeholders, our community partners, to assist those individuals at the ground level. But as long as, for instance, in the annual renewal time, you're getting something back to us, you're communicating with us, we take the time to work with individuals. So it's when it's in those cases when we may not hear from you at all. But people do have an obligation to provide us with some information if they've moved if they've changed their address and hopefully individuals in the community and providers in community organizations can assist those individuals. But I just want to remind people this is a two-year bridge until we get to 2014, when additional federal dollars come into play and there's a mandatory expansion of Medicaid. So this is not a permanent situation.

Ted Simons: All right. I'm glad you got that in. Thank you for joining us.

Monica Coury: Thank you for having me.

Arizona Technology and Innovation: High Tech Workers

  |   Video
  • Some states have too many high tech workers, some not enough. Arizona falls into the latter category. Find out why there’s a shortage of high tech workers in our state.
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: jobs, economy,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: 18 states including Arizona have more high-tech jobs than works to fill them. The problem, fewer students getting computer-related degrees. I recently talked about the situation with ASU information systems professor Raghu Santanam of the W.P. Carey School of Business. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Raghu Santanam: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Fewer high-tech graduates than open jobs. Even now?

Raghu Santanam: It is. It started with the dot com bust in 2000, and after that the students and parents both were worried about whether their kids would get jobs in the U.S., or whether those jobs would be outsourced or offshored elsewhere. So that's when we saw the drop in the number of students that were enrolling in our programs. Quite a bit. Quite a bit. And that's through nationally as well as in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Talk about Arizona now. It sounds like from the studies I've seen, we are -- the gap in Arizona is huge. Bigger than the national average by far.

Raghu Santanam: I'm not surprised. In our programs, we saw a drop that was more than 50%. Till at least recently. But finally we're now seeing an uptick in the number of students who are enrolling in our majors, so compared to 2008, we have about 20% more students in our information systems majors.

Ted Simons: Do you think that's because of the recession and students thought, hey this, is something that looks like it's going to be recession proof, and we might as well give it a shot?

Raghu Santanam: Possible. I think another trend was going around the same time that we began to publicize with our students that our majors get the highest starting salaries in the business school as well as the University. And we also made a concerted effort with our freshmen students as soon as they come to campus, that, look, this is a major that can get you to different places, it can put you right in the middle of your businesses where you are the go-to person.

Ted Simons: So from where you sit, are we seeing a lack of qualified students? Is there a lack of interested students? Is there a lack of opportunities for interested students to take classes and learn computer sciences and high-tech jobs, skills?

Raghu Santanam: I think it's more a lack of interest of students. We firmly have the capacity, even in Arizona if you look at our department, we are one of the largest information systems departments in the country. And we saw a sizable decrease in our enrollment, but now we can see that this improved.

Ted Simons: So it's interesting, do you think -- is it different in Arizona? Are the kids up in the Bay Area, Seattle, back in New England, D.C., the Midwest? Do you see a difference?

Raghu Santanam: There's no difference. Nationally it's been the trend. And we -- in the academic community we have discussed it, have thought of ways of improving enrollment and also going to the high school level and getting students to be interested in the technology ideas.

Ted Simons: Are you finding more students are becoming interested in high-tech areas?

Raghu Santanam: I believe so. And I think students are beginning to see the technology being everywhere, and we are living in an additional society, so that -- I think it's piquing their interest in terms of technology uses.

Ted Simons: We've got a job rich candidate starved industry, and I'm sure they're calling and you all other people out there that have had graduates ready to go. What are hiring managers looking for?

Raghu Santanam: They value technology skills, but they also at the same time value the communication skills. They want these candidates to be able to talk to the business people in their language, so that the complicated technology have communicated in a way that anyone can understand, so you build solutions that actually make sense to those business people.

Ted Simons: So it's almost as if you're wanting to write some sort of manual, some high-tech manual, you don't necessarily go to the English department, because they may be able to write, but not in this fashion, and thus when you go to -- look for somebody to communicate with business, you could be great on Oracle but you have to make that information clear.

Raghu Santanam: Right. And that's the way we have designed our major, to make sure we train our students in both the writing and the presentation skills as well as the basic business knowledge. Because that's extremely important given the technology permeates everything we do.

Ted Simons: I saw a study with the fastest growing skills, looks like Android, cloud, iphone, java script, these are what hiring managers are looking for along with the communication skills.

Raghu Santanam: Yes. I completely agree. Especially the cloud computing is a major trend. That’s going to change how we look at IT jobs in the future.

Ted Simons: That brings up another question. How do you convince students who are working on one kind of high-tech skill that that particular skill is going to be marketable in three or four years the way this industry changes so quickly?

Raghu Santanam: I agree. The students should actually think about being in the top of the food chain. And the top of the food chain is not the technology skills per se, it's the ability to understand how these emerging technologies change and transform business. So the more they're intellectually immersed into those issues, they're able to better fit with any kind of technology that comes out in the future. It's not actually learning the new skills that come out in the market today or tomorrow --

Ted Simons: being adaptable.

Raghu Santanam: Yes.

Ted Simons: Last question, what would you like to see Arizona students, Arizona education, Arizona do to bridge this gap between so many available jobs and so few high-tech graduates?

Raghu Santanam: There has to be better communication between recruiters and academic institutions in Arizona. And I think we've been doing that, and we prompted in fact our students to get involved more with recruiters. So we invite our recruiters to interact directly with our students through our student clubs, we hold career fairs through our department, and that helps them to get to know the type of student they're getting, and in fact mentor them so they're ready for the jobs when they graduate. So we've had quite a bit of success in inviting executives from Intel, American Express, general electric, these folks came and talked to our students all of last year. And that's helped a great deal.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thank you so much for joining us.

Raghu Santanam: Thank you for inviting me.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Horizon," the new chairman of the board of regents talks about funding universities.

Ted Simons: And the Phoenix art museum is hosting a collection of Mexican art never before seen on this side of the border. That's Thursday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.


  |   Video
  • A discussion on the law on whether you can buy and use fireworks with Todd Harms.
  • Todd Harms - Asst. Chief, Phoenix Fire Department
Category: Law   |   Keywords: fireworks, fourth,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: As we head into the 4th of July holiday weekend, firework stand are popping up all over the place. But just because you can buy fireworks does not mean you can use them. Here with more on that is Todd harms, assistant chief for the Phoenix fire department. Good to have you here.

Todd Harms: Good evening
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. Let's talk about the law here regarding fireworks. What's changed?

Todd Harms: You know, for the last few years, there's been a lot of lobbying to allow fireworks sales in the state. The fire service side has been against it, but this past year it passed that fireworks sales in the state of Arizona became legal. Then it came back to the individual cities on -- that they can sell fireworks in the cities, but can you use them in the city. So the city of Phoenix, the council voted that the sale portion of it goes through, but it's illegal to use the fireworks in the city of Phoenix.

Ted Simons: And what kind of fireworks are we talking about here?

Todd Harms: You know, I think when most of the time we talk about fireworks, people think of bottle rockets, and the kind of fireworks where there's the small M-80s or something like that. The fireworks that are legal to sell in the city cannot fly into the air, they have a radius as far as how much sparks can go out, how big they can be. So most of them are on the ground, but they do provide sparks all in that area right on to the ground.

Ted Simons: So like little cone things, counsel fountain things, and the sparklers.

Todd Harms: Exactly. All of that is legal. To be sold in the state.

Ted Simons: To be sold in Phoenix, but not to be used in Phoenix. What if someone does use them? What kind of penalty are we talking about here?

Todd Harms: If someone is caught using fireworks in the city of Phoenix, it's a class one misdemeanor. That is -- carries problem a $2500 fine, and up to six months in jail.

Ted Simons: If you catch them.

Todd Harms: If you catch them.

Ted Simons: And would that I have to ask, do you -- are you going to be all hands on deck coming up this weekend? Will extra staff be on hand?

Todd Harms: Well, it's interesting you ask that. One of our concerns that we have is that there's two times of the year, January 1st and the 4th of July are our traditionally busiest days of the year. Over this past year, just since the beginning of the year, we have seen just a steady rise of calls, just normally in the system. April was the busiest month ever for the Phoenix fire department in call volume. So going into the 4th of July, one of the concerns we have is just that we've already seen a trend of calls going up. Our thoughts are that we're going to have additional calls that are related to fireworks. Due to the budget and where we're at today, we will staff the city at a normal staffing level with some contingency plans that will fall into place. But as far as additional staff, we just don't have the revenue to add additional companies right now.

Ted Simons: And I would imagine you are expecting more injuries, more damage in some way, shape, or form this weekend.

Todd Harms: You know, that's -- and then across the valley all the fire departments work together. Some of the cities it's legal for them to use the fireworks. Kind of our stance has always been on two sides. There is an injury hazard that goes along with fireworks, and then there's the fire hazard that goes along with them. We met with the county hospital, with the burn unit today, and talked to them about injuries. What do they see type stuff. It was interesting what they see a lot is with teenagers. Probably the number one category as far as injuries and burn injuries. And the next category after that were small children. And then adults after that. But the thing they said that stood out to me was that the injuries they see there are life-altering injuries. People lose fingers, there's usually some type of scarring, they said 30 to 40% of the injuries they'll see, and they expect this weekend to be a big weekend for them, is just from sparklers. And if you think of a sparkler, it burns at 2,000 degrees. So a lot of it is the sparkler, the stick now is red-hot. We've all seen those before. Now someone is touched with that, and it cause as third degree burn in that area that has to be cleaned and causes a scar for life.

Ted Simons: The industry, the fireworks industry says related injuries to fireworks, they say it's down. 90% in the last 20 years. That's the information they have on injuries. Does that ring true with you? And if so, is there -- are we worried a little bit too much in about this?

Todd Harms: We're going to see what effect it has on us. My own experience is that I grew up in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, the sale of fireworks was everywhere. And so come this time of year, you would see stand just like we have here on every corner there's a stand with fireworks on it. I don't think there was anybody back there that didn't have a story about fireworks. And something that happened -- either was a really close call for them, or that there was somebody or somebody that got injured. So for us here, we're going to look at the statistics and see, and we've already had from January 1st when the fireworks first went on sale, we've had a couple of fires that were caused directly related to the fireworks and the use of fireworks.

Ted Simons: OK. And real quickly, again, got to watch the kids around water, because this is the time of year for that concern.

Todd Harms: Oh, it is always going on. We've lost four kids in the city of Phoenix alone already this year. If there's -- there's just a couple things, number one as you said, watch those kids around water, and have some barriers between the pools and your house.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Todd Harms: You bet.