Miller: Health care is economic driver in Ariz. - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Miller: Health care is economic driver in Ariz.

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Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013 10:49 am | Updated: 4:28 pm, Fri Mar 22, 2013.

Health care is a business and economic driver in the East Valley, similar to the aerospace or defense industries. The health care sector makes effective use of private and public funds to create jobs, support ancillary services and support the purchase of local materials. Statewide, the hospital industry is 63 percent larger than the hospitality industry and 37 percent larger than the electronics and aerospace industries combined.

Throughout the “Great Recession,” hospitals were one of the few industries that did not experience massive layoffs and largely retained or enhanced employment levels.

But the continued economic downturn and the dramatic rise in the uninsured, which occurred last fiscal year (more than 140,000 people lost their insurance due to state budget cuts), has put an unsustainable strain on hospital finances from patients who need services, but are unable to pay.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to restore Medicaid coverage is a sound one. Arizona voters have twice approved providing Medicaid coverage to Arizonans below federally-designated levels of poverty, and the governor’s proposal would help fulfill the will of the voters.

There also is a clear economic argument to be made for this plan. Arizona needs to stay competitive in the region — since so many of the other Western states are maximizing the Medicaid dollars, we will be at a strategic disadvantage if we do not do the same. The governor’s plan will inject $2 billion into our economy, keeping Arizonans’ tax dollars in Arizona and helping to maintain and create thousands of jobs in the state.

The plan will also alleviate the burden of uncompensated care costs that get placed on businesses and Arizona families who are paying higher rates to compensate for uninsured patients in need of care.

We encourage business and community leaders throughout the East Valley to support the governor’s proposal as a cost effective way to provide insurance for more than 240,000 Arizonans and to help our economy continue to move into full recovery

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• Bill Miller has lived in Ahwatukee for more than 20 years and is a long-time volunteer at Dignity Health hospitals.

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