An update on political issues, from TMC and Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA):
Under the false guise of attacking “ObamaCare,” a small but vocal group is attempting to undo the single biggest step our state has taken in 30 years to make cost-effective health care available to Arizona’s working poor.
This fringe group has launched a Constitutionally-dubious effort to force a citizens’ referendum on the Medicaid Restoration Plan. You’ll remember, this Medicaid plan was adopted in June thanks to the leadership of Governor Brewer and bipartisan backing of the Arizona Legislature.
Now, clipboard-wielding Medicaid opponents seek referendum signatures by likening our Republican governor’s plan to “ObamaCare.” They say a signature on one of their petitions is a strike against tax increases.
Enough with the noise. Here is the simple truth:
– Arizona’s Medicaid program, known as AHCCCS, has been around since 1982. It is the time-tested, national gold standard when it comes to Medicaid. And AHCCCS has absolutely nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act or “ObamaCare.” In fact, Arizona voters have twice in recent years voted to expand AHCCCS eligibility to more of our friends and neighbors in need.
– There is no tax increase in the Governor’s plan. The federal government will pay 100 percent of Arizona’s costs in expanding AHCCCS coverage over the first three years. That matching rate will eventually fall to 90 percent, and hospitals like this one will assess a fee upon ourselves in order to pay Arizona’s share of this cost. Language in the Governor’s plan specifically forbids us from passing along these costs to patients.
With the plan enacted by Governor Brewer and legislators, Arizona will reap nearly $8 billion over the next three years. These are our own tax dollars – paid by Arizona citizens to the federal treasury. This funding will extend cost-effective health care to hundreds of thousands of Arizona’s working poor. It will also aid hospitals like ours, which have seen a sharp increase in costs associated with providing care to the uninsured. Currently, much of these costs are ultimately paid by the rest of us via higher health insurance premiums – a phenomenon commonly dubbed the Hidden Health Care Tax.
The federal funding made possible by the Governor’s plan will not only address the Hidden Health Care Tax, it will also create quality jobs. Thousands of them. In fact, the bipartisan Grand Canyon Institute estimated this funding will generate 21,000 jobs in health care and related fields across Arizona.
There is something else that the Medicaid opponents never mention. If they are successful and derail the plan adopted by Governor Brewer and legislators, our federal authorization to provide AHCCCS coverage to 63,000 Arizonans will expire at the end of this year. That means these individuals will immediately discontinue treatment, regardless of whether they’re undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis or any other life-saving procedure. Continuing this care without federal assistance would cost Arizona an estimated $800 million in the first three years alone.
Thankfully, Arizona has a better option. With adoption of the Medicaid Restoration Plan, our duly-elected policymakers have done what is best for our economy, our State budget and Arizona citizens.
Now is the time to stay the course and say “no, thanks” to the petition-gatherers.