Sarah Gassen: Arizona's follicle conservatives

2013-05-02T08:21:00Z 2013-05-02T08:21:09Z Sarah Gassen: Arizona's follicle conservativesSarah Garrecht Gassen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I'm following the ever-so-straight line that Arizona Rep. David Gowan has so helpfully drawn for the public, connecting the dots straight from health-care to coiffures.

That's right.

Let's let Gowan's own words paint the picture. He was speaking on Bill Buckmaster's local news radio show last Friday. Linda Valdez, an editorial writer and columnist for the Arizona Republic, and I asked why he and the Republican majority in the Legislature oppose expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income Arizonans.

Gowan explained that children and pregnant women are covered by government programs, so we shouldn't worry about them. It's just childless adults - about 60,000 Arizonans who earn between roughly $11,500 and $15,200 per year - who would be left without medical coverage if the Legislature does not support expanding the state's Medicaid system, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS.

(I transcribed his words from the show recording, taking out the ums, uhs and pauses. Listen to the full show at www.buckmastershow.com).

"So the reality here is people have those choices right now. If they don't, they're not on the AHCCCS piece, then they're at a level to where hopefully they're out there, they have a job that is capable of giving them that," Gowan said.

Fun fact: Arizona lawmakers are state employees, make about $24,000 for a part-time job (plus a per diem) and are eligible for medical insurance through the state. That means we, the taxpayers, pick up most of the tab.

But never fear - the GOP talking points are here. Unfurl the safety net!

"We've created a safety-net system in government which I don't think any of us have certain troubles with," Gowan said. "I guess there are certain people out there really who have trouble just with any of this at all, but now that we're in it I don't think there's, the safety-net piece, I don't think most people have trouble helping out people who are in need and getting them a hand up. But when you start talking about always the handouts and just reverting, taking from somebody, giving to somebody else, I think there's a big problem in difference there."

Arizona's safety net is more like a trampoline.

In 2011, the Legislature stopped letting childless adults enroll in AHCCCS. If you were on the program, but dropped it because you found work or your income increased, you couldn't re-enroll if you were later laid off or your hours were cut.

The Medicaid expansion - which is supported by that known über-liberal Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, along with almost every chamber of commerce in the state, medical group and hospital - would provide coverage to about 57,000 Arizonans. Federal matching funds would let 240,000 childless adults stay on AHCCCS and include about 50,000 more.

"And so, with this, I do, I personally I believe in a safety net," Gowan said. "And I think we have that. I think it's personal responsibility. People need to go out there and be responsible for their lives and take hold of their lives and get themselves some health insurance.

"Again, do we go to the government to make sure that our children have their haircuts or get their teeth brushed?" he said.

How exactly did haircuts get into this? Forget fiscal conservatives; in Arizona we get follicle conservatives! Hiii-larious.

"There is a safety net and it is there," Gowan said. "Now it's time for personal responsibility to come into play, and if you get yourself out of the safety net to put your boots on and strap those boots up."

So let's talk about those boots.

Gowan and with his legislative comrades can buy an individual medical insurance policy through the state's PPO plan for $71.54 per pay period. The state (that's us) pays $342. So a lawmaker pays about $1,860 each year for a health insurance plan with a $500 deductible for in-network providers.

Through the magic of the Internet, I came up with a couple of quotes for medical insurance for a healthy man - Mr. Boots, we'll call him - who lives in Sierra Vista (like Gowan) and is 40 years old (I just picked a number). Gowan didn't respond to an email asking if he uses the state medical plan, but even if he doesn't, he has that option, which tens of thousands of Arizonans don't.

Mr. Boots would pay about $372 per month for a similar plan - almost $4,500 a year.

But Mr. Boots isn't making a lawmaker's lofty salary. Our Mr. Boots works, but doesn't make more than about $15,000 a year.

Mr. Boots could buy a policy for about $70 per month, but that carries a $10,000 deductible and office visits are $30. He'd have to spend almost his entire year's income before his benefits kicked in. That's not health care.

Gowan's simplistic vision of how medical insurance works, and the choices Arizonans must make, is frightening. Expanding Medicaid coverage is the smart decision. But it won't happen without persistent and vocal pressure from voters and business leaders.

It's time to put our boots on and get to work.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Her column appears on Thursdays. Email her at sgassen@azstarnet.com

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

Activate

Latest Fitz Report video

More

Fitz studio: How to draw the President

In this video tutorial, Star cartoonist and columnist David Fitzsimmons teaches you how to draw the Preside…

Latest Newsmakers video

More

Dr. Peter Rhee on mental health

Dr. Peter Rhee discusses mental health and other issues surrounding gun violence.

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...