​Health Care Providers Maintain Minor Record Confidentiality Despite Parental Right Law Taking Effect Later This Month

​Health Care Providers Maintain Minor Record Confidentiality Despite Parental Right Law Taking Effect Later This Month

By Corinne Murdock |

A new law prohibiting restrictions to parental access of children’s records will take effect at the end of this month, on September 23. Even so, health care facilities are maintaining policies upholding their minor patients’ confidentiality. HB2161 will upend decades of common practice for Arizona health care providers.

The history of confidentiality in health care for minors leads back to the inception of the Title X family planning program in 1970 and the ensuing controversy over confidential reproductive health care services for minors. Beginning with the Clinton administration in 2000, the federal government issued privacy protections for medical records that extended to minors.

Since then, federal precedent has informed and shaped Arizona’s health care system. One of the most recent examples of this occurred in late June, when HonorHealth implemented a policy allowing its 12 to 17-year-old patients to shield their medical records from parental view. According to the Arizona Daily Independent, parents don’t have full access to their child’s online medical records.

Meanwhile, Banner Health precludes parental access to all of their 12- to 17-year old child’s records without the child’s consent. One Arizona mother, Jacquie Wedding, felt the effects of this policy recently. In a viral Tiktok video, Wedding shared the following email sent to her by Banner Health shortly after her children’s 12th birthday:

“Please be informed that access to your child’s account has been revoked. The reason for this is because the child is now between the ages of 12 and 17. Based on state law, a minor child may consent to certain treatments without parental consent. Records of those treatments are protected and may not be released to a parent without the minor patient’s consent. As Banner Health is not able to separate those records, we do not provide proxy access to MyBanner for minor patients between the ages of 12 and 17.”

Banner Health and HonorHealth are both part of the Health System Alliance of Arizona (HSAA), an advocacy organization that also includes Dignity Health and Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

These HSAA members align with Arizona Medical Association (AMA) standards on confidentiality for adolescent treatment. AMA advised health care providers to limit parental access to their child’s records.

“Providing confidential care to teenagers for certain personal issues is essential to providing appropriate health care and helping them develop autonomy by encouraging them to be responsible for their own health care,” stated the guide. “In addition, by providing confidential care, the clinician can develop a trusting relationship with the teen.”

One of the AMA guide authors was Veenod Chulani: the doctor who founded and currently leads the Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) Gender Support Program, one of the only comprehensive gender transition programs for minors in the state.

PCH allows minors aged 12 to 17 to grant or prohibit parental access to their records.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Public Comments Sought For Improving 2030 Census Process

Public Comments Sought For Improving 2030 Census Process

By Terri Jo Neff |

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced it wants the public to share ideas and comments about how the 2030 Census can be improved. The deadline for responding is Nov. 15, according to a Federal Register Notice.

The Census Bureau is in the early stages of planning the next decennial census, which includes “doing a deep dive on 2020 Census Data Quality,” the announcement states.

This is of particular interest in Arizona, where the Census Bureau estimated earlier this year that Hispanics and Native Americans were undercounted. The undercount in population is believed by many census observers to have cost Arizona a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

By late 2024, the agency expects to outline its initial operational design for the 2030 Census, followed by refining procedures and putting technology and other infrastructure in place for the national count in April 2030.

As part of the planning efforts, the public is invited to comment on how the Census Bureau can improve the public’s census experience. Particular attention will be paid to suggestions on how to better reach and count historically undercounted people.

“Public input is needed now so it can inform the Census Bureau’s decisions on the initial operational design, along with the findings of dozens of research projects underway,” according to the announcement. 

Particular attention will be paid to more effectively reaching mobile populations as well as people living in informal, complex living arrangements. Planners are also interested in suggestions related to technology that can make responding to the census more user-friendly and enhance the efforts of census takers.

Census officials are also interested in better understanding additional data sources (administrative records or other data sources) and methods that could increase census operational efficiency and effectiveness and improve data quality, as well as tools and messaging that should be used to reach out to each household.

Another area for suggestions and comments involves how the Census Bureau can increase census access for people with disabilities, as well as improving support for the public in responding online, by phone, by mail, in English, or in another language.

Comments can be made via email to DCMD.2030.Research@census.gov or by going online to the 2030 Census webpage.

Decennial census data is confidential under federal law for 72 years to protect respondents’ privacy. Data collected from the first census in 1790 through 1950 is available for free at most public libraries or from several pay-to-view online services.

Records of the 1960 to 2020 censuses can only be obtained by the person named in the record (or their heir) by submitting a required form.

August Bankruptcy Filings in Arizona Hit Highest Mark Of Year

August Bankruptcy Filings in Arizona Hit Highest Mark Of Year

By Terri Jo Neff |

Financial eyes are focused on data recently released by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Arizona showing August had the highest number of new filings this year, while also being the first month of 2022 to have more new filings than the same month in 2021.

Bankruptcy filings are considered a lagging indicators of financial stress and economic health, and the number of new filings goes up and down from month to month. However, billions of dollars from various federal stimulus programs have ebbed in 2022, meaning no more Paycheck Protection Program, no CARES stimulus checks to individuals, and the end of the federal foreclosure moratorium.

Some Arizona families and businesses may no longer have a lifeboat, according to commercial debt collection company ABC/Aemga.

“Companies that have struggled throughout the pandemic, but were kept afloat by stimulus money and generous lenders, may face trouble during the rest of 2022 and into 2023 once those funds run out, as the Fed continues to tighten its ultra-loose monetary policy by reducing asset holdings and raising the Fed Funds Rate target, and credit conditions start to tighten,” the company warns.

Sectors such as retail, construction, health care, and certain manufacturers adversely affected by higher raw material and labor costs remain particularly vulnerable, while travel, hospitality, commercial real estate, consumer goods, entertainment, midstream oil and gas, and power and other energy infrastructure also face pressure and uncertainty, according to ABC/Amega.

For the first eight months this year, there were 5,879 new filings statewide, down from 6,765 for the same period in 2021. Slightly more than 12 percent of this year’s new cases were filed pro se, or without legal representation.

If the August pace continues for the rest of 2022 the total filings for the year in Arizona will come close to last year’s total of 9,353. By comparison, there were 12,903 filings in Arizona in 2020 and 16,237 in 2019.

The majority of new cases filed in the state as of Aug. 31 this year were under Chapter 7 (4,803) followed distantly by Chapter 13 (1,029) and Chapter 11 (46). There has also been a lone Chapter 12 filing.

While households and businesses in Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties lead in filings of as Aug. 31 at 3,887, 896, 439 respectively, Yavapai and Mohave counties have similar totals at 151 and 146 respectively.

The three border counties of Cochise, Santa Cruz, and Yuma have 80, 42, and 106, respectively. Meanwhile, Apache (4), Coconino (29), Gila (28), Graham (17), Greenlee (3), LaPaz (7), and Navajo (44) represent less than 2.3 percent of all filings in the state as of Aug. 31.

Arizona AG Is Asked To Take Immediate Action Against State School Board Event

Arizona AG Is Asked To Take Immediate Action Against State School Board Event

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has been called on to take immediate action to prevent public school districts from using taxpayer funds in an effort to reduce how many of the state’s K-12 students are eligible for up to $7,000 for educational expenses.

The Goldwater Institute worked earlier this year to expand eligibility for Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program from roughly 11,000 K-12 students to all of the estimated 1.1 million students. Gov. Doug Ducey signed the legislation in July and it takes effect later this month.

However, Democrats and special interest groups, including union organizations, have pledged to stop universal ESAs from becoming a reality. And Arizona’s public school districts appear poised to violate state law to do so, according to Scott Day Freeman, a Senior Attorney for the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

“Arizonans would rightly be appalled to learn that school districts will be using taxpayer resources to have district employees participate in an event clearly geared toward a political objective: undoing Arizona’s innovative, new universal school-choice program,” Freeman wrote on Aug. 31 to Michael S. Catlett, the Chief Counsel of Special Litigation for Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

In the letter, Freeman outlines the Goldwater Institute’s concern that many of the state’s school districts are poised to use taxpayer dollars to send representatives to a politically motivated meeting later this week at which attendees will be encouraged to help overturn Arizona’s new ESA opportunity.

“Arizona Revised Statute Section 15-511 prohibits school districts from spending or using district school resources to influence the outcomes of elections, including the support or opposition of ballot measures,” Freeman wrote. “But school districts are doing precisely that, and the Attorney General is statutorily empowered to stop it.”

Freeman notes numerous public school district employees plan to attend a “Law Conference” presented by the Arizona School Boards Association at the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn in Paradise Valley on Sept. 7 through 9 that will include programming by Friends of the ASBA, a 501(c)(4) organization opposed to school choice.

Friends of the ASBA, Freeman wrote Catlett, “will be working at the conference to gather signatures on a petition to overturn the universal school choice reform via ballot referendum.” He added that the ASBA “has brought its political advocacy to a fine point in its upcoming Law Conference.”

The Goldwater Institute is asking the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to immediately investigate and “take all appropriate legal action to enforce Arizona’s law prohibiting school districts from using public recourses to support a ballot measure seeking to invalidate Arizona’s universal ESA program,” Freeman wrote.

The authority of the AGO to act is provided in ARS 15-511 “but only if your office acts promptly,” he added.

In a follow-up public statement, Freeman said the Goldwater Institute is dedicated to exposing the plans of entrenched interests in education to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars to deprive parents of the educational freedom provided by ESAs.

“All Arizona families should be free to make educational choices for their children without having the government work against them by rigidly defending a status quo that protects bureaucrats and government unions,” he stated.