by Jim Nintzel
Gov. Jan Brewer has released a statement on the Special Session on the budget and Medicaid expansion now underway at the Legislature:
One of the first things I learned in politics more than 30 years ago was the importance of listening. So, when I began to consider the Medicaid issue last year, I met with as many groups and individuals as possible that I knew would be impacted by this critical decision. Hospital officials. Health care professionals. Patient advocates. And business leaders. What they told me wasn’t at all what I wanted to hear. But it was the hard truth.
While I remain opposed to the Affordable Care Act, it has become increasingly clear to me that the status quo is not an option. On January 1, 2014, Arizona’s federal authorization to provide Medicaid coverage to 63,000 Arizonans will expire. But the cost to continue that coverage with State—only funds is prohibitive—more than $800 million over three years. Something has to give.
With my Medicaid Restoration Plan, we can continue providing cost-effective care to these individuals—Arizona’s working poor—via the nation’s gold standard Medicaid program: AHCCCS. We can pay for this coverage by drawing down the tax dollars that Arizona citizens already pay to the federal government. We can protect our critical rural and safety net hospitals, while creating an estimated 21,000 jobs across our state. This only makes sense.
It has been nearly five months since I announced my State budget proposal and intent to pursue this Medicaid Restoration Plan, and exactly three months since I unveiled Medicaid legislation through which it could be enacted . In that time, we’ve seen plenty of political charges made and games played, but—regrettably—very little actual legislative progress to address the most important health issue this State has debated in decades. With the fiscal year coming to a close in just over two weeks, time is short. That is why I acted Tuesday evening—in coordination with a majority of the legislators in both the House and Senate—to call this Special Session.
Majority. That word has meaning in our republic. I trust that over the next 24 hours or so, a majority of the House and Senate will put an end to the games. They will take action on a budget and Medicaid Restoration, and finally complete the people’s business.