There are so many reasons for the Legislature to approve Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to expand Medicaid that it is hard for me to believe that any elected official would put ideology before the good of their constituents and the state of Arizona.
First, there is the money. The state budget benefits from the expansion as the hospitals put up the required match and Arizona will pull down around $9 in federal funds to $1 the hospitals contribute. Rejecting the expansion will actually end up costing Arizona more while some 60,000 of us will lose AHCCCS coverage by the end of the year. The governor has crafted her budget so hospital contributions and federal matching dollars will actually reduce our state’s cost for the current program.
Then consider the benefit to working Arizonans. The poorest of the poor are already covered by AHCCCS — this opportunity just raises the limit so working families can get some health insurance. Coverage will help low-wage individuals stay healthy and go to work. Most of these jobs do not offer benefits nor do they pay when someone is home sick. Don’t we want to encourage people to work? I see AHCCCS as an important element to fostering self-reliance for those will few skills or little education. Community clinics like the Guadalupe Family Health Center are truly leaders in preventative medicine by using the medical home quality approach.
As we saw recently in Boston, hospitals are a critical part of the crisis response network in every community. Although their trauma capacity may not be fully utilized except on rare occasions of disastrous events, they must be ever always prepared. Remember those drills we saw on the news for a large pandemic flu outbreak or dirty bomb placed at a major sporting event? This readiness is just another cost that everyone expects hospitals to assume. Unfortunately Obamacare, unemployment and the economy have drastically changed the financial picture for most Arizona hospitals.
As numbers of uninsured Arizonan’s have risen over the past few years, hospital charity care and bad debt write-offs have skyrocketed, doubling and sometimes even more. We may have to hold our nose, but the solution for our state is to accept the federal incentives for Medicaid expansion. It will allow hospitals in Arizona like Phoenix St. Joseph’s, where I was born; Banner Good Samaritan, where my dear children were born; and Chandler Regional, where my beautiful grandchildren were born, to continue to serve our communities. Of course, the Dignity Health Urgent care in Ahwatukee is owned and operated by the hospital system.
Arizona needs physicians as you know if you’ve tried to get into see a specialist. In fact, although Massachusetts is about the same population as us, they have more than twice as many doctors. Hospital residency programs are essential to our future health, but again more cost.
The Dignity Health System has stepped forward to build a level one trauma center at Chandler Regional Hospital. This is will save many lives in Ahwatukee Foothills, Gila River Indian Community and the East Valley, but it is extremely expensive to maintain. We want a financially healthy hospital that continuously invests in technology and has the best doctors near our family. It is critical that our state Legislature approve Brewer’s budget plan for Medicaid expansion.