As leaders of Southern Arizona hospitals, our focus is on patients — not politics.
Unfortunately, legislative discussions in Washington, D.C., demand our attention at the moment because the ramifications for patient care and Arizona families are considerable. Because of that, we hosted a health-care town hall this week with national experts on health care and the response was overwhelming. While the number of people who attended was impressive, it was the energy and passion in the room that was most notable.
People came out on a hot Tucson evening because the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, now being considered by the U.S. Senate would transform how we deliver care to you — and not in a positive way. Specifically, the measure is expected to leave millions of Americans without access to affordable, quality health care. Among them are more than 400,000 Arizona Medicaid enrollees, casualties of more than $800 billion in planned cuts to the federal program for the working poor.
Behind every number is a real person. Arizona’s Medicaid program, AHCCCS, estimates that individuals at risk to lose health coverage include: 28,900 people fighting cancer, 16,000 battling opioid addiction and 11,000 Arizonans with serious mental illness.
Regrettably, Arizona knows all too well what happens when large numbers of people lose access to care. After enrollment in our state’s Medicaid program was frozen in 2011, more than 160,000 people fell off the program rolls over the course of the next two years. They began showing up in our emergency rooms and those of hospitals across Arizona, seeking health care of last resort for the uninsured. This is no way for the most prosperous nation on earth to handle health care for our citizens.
In addition to the human toll, it is clear the Better Care Reconciliation Act has grave financial consequences for the state of Arizona. According to newly released numbers, the legislation would cost state government $7.1 billion between now and 2026. The loss of federal funding alone approaches $3 billion. These dollars equate to lost jobs and economic impact across Arizona.
If approved, this legislation would place state leaders in the unenviable position of having to choose between eliminating health coverage for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans or either cutting core programs in other areas or increasing taxes in order to maintain health care.
Simply put, we believe this legislation will hurt Southern Arizona — including its patients, health care providers and economy.
Our hope is that the U.S. Senate will find a bipartisan solution that will have long-term durability so our patients have continued access to affordable care and our community can thrive.
We encourage every member of our community to contact Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake to let them know the importance of health-care access and coverage for you, your family and community. Tell them you deserve access to quality and affordable health care, and that this bill — including Medicaid cuts under consideration — would have a detrimental impact on you and your community for years to come.
Health care should be protected; it’s up to us to make sure that it is.