by April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
Nevada administrators have abandoned plans to survey health care providers about the types of patients they serve and the wait times at their offices, information experts say would help policymakers address the state’s overburdened health care system.
The Nevada Division of Health Care Financing and Policy (DHCFP), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed to the Current that a proposed regulation related to health care data was canceled in compliance with an executive order issued by Gov. Joe Lombardo. That executive order, 2023-003, was issued during the Republican governor’s second week in office and froze the implementation of new regulations.
The executive order allowed exemptions for regulations related to public safety or public health, but Regulation R060-22RP1 didn’t qualify.
The data collection regulation stems from Senate Bill 379, which passed the 2021 Legislature with widespread bipartisan support. That bill required the state to collect certain data from health care providers applying for, or renewing, licenses. That data includes the provider’s race and ethnicity, primary language, and where in the state they will practice. The bill also authorized the director of DHHS to collect additional data, which is to be established through the regulatory process.
John Packham of the Nevada Health Workforce Research Center said the legislation was designed to allow the state to collect important information in a cost-effective manner since the providers had to apply or reapply anyway. Workforce policy making is regularly handicapped by poor quality data, he added.
“I probably get asked once a week what is the average age of a physician or nurse in Nevada,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you. I could hazard a guess, but I couldn’t tell you (with certainty).”
DHCFP last year held three public workshops to collect feedback on the additional questions to be asked of providers.
What the department landed on was a series of questions about the patients each provider was serving, including what percentage were on Medicaid and how many were homeless or migrant/seasonal agricultural workers. Additionally, the survey would have asked if the provider was accepting new patients, the number of outpatient visits in the last year, and the average wait times.
DHCFP on March 15 announced it was withdrawing the proposed regulation. Beyond confirming that the cancellation was sparked by Lombarado’s executive order, the spokesperson for the department had no further comment.
The governor’s executive order just kind of stuck a knife in the whole process.– John Packham, Nevada Health Workforce Research Center
The department will still survey health care providers for the demographic data explicitly outlined in SB 379.
The data collected will not be considered public information. The 2021 legislation makes the data confidential except to the licensing board and relevant state administrators, who can aggregate information and make public reports. Completing the survey questions is also optional, with providers facing no punishment for not submitting the requested information.
An impact questionnaire submitted to licensing boards, professional associations and thousands of individual Medicaid providers last year received only 69 responses. None of the respondents believed the survey would provide any direct or indirect benefits to their business, but a majority also believed it would have no direct or indirect adverse effect either.
Packham said he’d worked on legislation approving the collection of data through the licensure process for approximately a decade before it finally made it over the finish line in 2021. Every step was met with pushback, primarily from medical boards who argued answering the questions was too burdensome.
“It was an exercise that was worth the effort but ultimately very frustrating,” said Packham of the bill and its related regulation. “The governor’s executive order just kind of stuck a knife in the whole process.”
He added, “I don’t see it being resurrected.”
The scrapped data collection regulation is one of the first tangible outcomes of the executive order issued by Lombardo. It’s unclear how many, if any, other proposed regulations have similarly been shelved across all state agencies.
Lombardo’s Communications Director, Elizabeth Ray, said the administration is not specifically tracking the number of proposed or planned regulations that have been paused or canceled, but that the office is engaged “in constant communication” with departments and agencies as they have questions or concerns.
Ray added that more information will be known in upcoming months as a key deadline set in the executive order passes. As part of the regulation executive order, state agencies must by May 1 submit a list of 10 regulations for removal.