Report: AZ Medicaid expansion 'positive'

Moody's Investors Service says Arizona's recent, politically charged decision to expand Medicaid eligibility is "credit positive" for local hospitals.

A report about the expansion in Moody's June 20 weekly credit outlook says that self-pay patients at Arizona hospitals are expected to drop significantly. This is good for hospitals because as people lost Medicaid eligibility over the past two years, the number of self-pay patients rose and hospitals often had to write off their bills as charity care or bad debt.

Within the Moody's rated portfolio, the University of Arizona Medical Center and Yuma Regional Medical Center will benefit the most from the expansion because both hospitals treat a disproportionately large share of Medicaid and low-income patients, the report says.

The report notes that Arizona Medicaid expansion is notable because the legislation restores Medicaid eligibility to about 300,000 residents who were removed from the Medicaid rolls two years ago following state budget cuts during the recession. Following the loss of eligibility, the payer mix at many Arizona hospitals worsened as people who lost Medicaid eligibility shifted to self-pay patients.

"Although Medicaid tends to be a weaker payer than Medicare and commercial insurers, reimbursing about 70 percent of costs, services provided to self-pay patients are often completely written off as charity care or bad debt," the report says. "Another reason the Arizona legislation is notable is that it contains a 'circuit breaker' clause that allows the state to rescind coverage in the event federal funding for the Medicaid expansion drops below 80 percent."

Under terms of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 100 percent of the cost for expanding Medicaid until 2020, when the share drops to 90 percent.

Medicaid is for low-income individuals and families. In Arizona, the program is called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). Under an expanded program, AHCCCS will be open to people earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less, which works out to an annual income of $31,322 for a family of four.

Hotline and websites address health law

Questions about how the new federal health law affects you? You are not alone. The federal government, in an effort to clear up confusion about the new law, has launched a 24-hour health-law education call center and revamped website.

The aim of both the hotline and the website is to help Americans prepare for open enrollment and sign up for private health insurance. Enrollment in the health insurance marketplaces begins Oct. 1.

The website for the information is, which by October will allow consumers to create accounts, complete an online application and shop for qualified health plans. For consumers who speak Spanish, will be updated to match's new consumer focus, federal officials say.

The website can be accessed from desktops, smart phones, and other mobile devices. In addition, the website is available via an application interface at

The hotline provides assistance in more than 150 languages. Customer service representatives are available at 1-800-318-2596, and hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD technology can dial 1-855-889-4325 for assistance.

Niemann-Pick cure goal of bike ride

Gregory Crawford, dean of the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame, is on his fourth annual cross-country Road to Discovery bicycle ride to raise funds for research to find a cure or treatments for Niemann-Pick Type C disease.

He is scheduled to be in Casa Grande and Tucson tonight.

Notre Dame has partnered with the Tucson-based Ara Parseghian Research Medical Foundation to find treatments or a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease.

Crawford is biking 3,476 miles from Los Angeles to Baltimore. He is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore Aug. 2 in time for the 21st Annual National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation Family Support and Medical Conference.

By the end of this year's journey, he will have biked more than 11,200 miles to raise awareness for the rare and fatal genetic disease. The funds raised from this year's ride will target support for a clinical trial to treat Niemann-Pick Type C patients with the disease.

Niemann-Pick Type C is a genetic, cholesterol storage disorder that primarily strikes children, with death occurring before or during adolescence. There is also an adult-onset form of the disease.

The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in Tucson is a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding medical research projects to find a treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C disease. The Parseghian Foundation is named in honor of Ara Parseghian, the well-known former Notre Dame football coach, whose three youngest grandchildren were diagnosed with Niemann-Pick Type C in 1994. Those three children, whose parents are Tucson residents Greg and Cindy Parseghian, all died of the disease.

Contact Star medical reporter Stephanie Innes at or 573-4134.