State House must put people first, expand Medicaid

Our view: Action would prevent cutbacks, keep tax dollars in Arizona
2013-06-12T00:00:00Z State House must put people first, expand Medicaid Arizona Daily Star
June 12, 2013 12:00 am

Republicans who wisely support expanding Medicaid in Arizona must stand strong and vote yes when the matter comes before the state House.

Medicaid expansion has passed the state Senate. A House committee voted it down on Monday, but it's expected to come to the full House for a vote, likely this week.

Putting people before party isn't easy and may come at a political cost for the Republicans who dare to step out of line and vote to support Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's plan to expand Medicaid in Arizona.

But here's the fundamental question: Did you seek political office to keep that position, or did you run to serve the people who need it most - people who don't have high-powered lobbyists or the means to make campaign donations?

If the answer is that self-preservation is paramount, then explain your decision to the Arizonans without medical insurance, and the hospitals who treat them and the Arizonans with health insurance who end up footing the bill through higher premiums.

But if the answer is one of service, then take heart in the knowledge that expanding Medicaid in our state is a decision that will help tens of thousands of Arizonans - many of whom work hard at jobs that don't offer medical insurance or that don't pay enough for workers to afford it.

Arizonans who earn no more than the federal poverty limit - about $19,530 per year for a family of three - can now qualify for coverage under the state's Medicaid plan, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS.

The federal Affordable Care Act (derided as "Obamacare" by Republicans) would expand that to 136 percent of the federal poverty level.

Most of the cost would be covered by the federal government. The state would pay a $240 million annual cost to cover childless adults who meet the financial limits - these Arizonans were frozen out of AHCCCS coverage several years ago to cut costs.

Hospitals, along with most chambers of commerce, support the Medicaid expansion and have agreed to pay millions in assessments to leverage $1.6 billion in federal aid.

Rural hospitals have said they will have to cut medical services way back or close if the state Legislature doesn't pass the Medicaid expansion.

Urban hospitals have also been clear about the negative financial and job-loss implications.

Medicaid expansion isn't a hypothetical ideological exercise.

Rejecting the expansion will simply continue the status quo: People who carry health insurance will pay higher premiums and more for medical care so that hospitals can cover the costs of treating uninsured sick people.

Germs don't care who has medical insurance. Cancer doesn't care, nor do congenital heart problems, rickety ladders or drivers who crash - misfortune doesn't befall only people with insurance.

Rejecting Medicaid expansion in Arizona will also ensure that our tax dollars will go to people who live in other states - states where the legislators are practical and wise enough to get over the whole "Obamacare" labeling stumbling block and do what's right for their people. The federal government will help pick up their tabs with our tax dollars.

Unless we're willing to condemn people to suffer, or even die, for the free-market sin of not being able to afford health insurance, then we must find a way to make certain that people who need medical care can get it, and that the bills will be paid.

Expanding Medicaid accomplishes that goal. It's the right thing to do for all Arizonans.

Arizona Daily Star

Germs don't care who has medical insurance. Cancer doesn't care, nor do congenital heart problems, rickety ladders or drivers who crash - misfortune doesn't befall only people with insurance.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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