by Jim Nintzel
The latest dispatch from state Rep. Steve Farley:
Howdy, Friends O'Farley…
What a day for America! After a hundred years of trying, we finally enacted real health care reform.
It's not perfect, and the main features do not go into effect for another four years, but it remains a huge accomplishment given the cynical campaign of fear and lies waged against it by the big health insurance companies and the big right-wing newsertainment industry.
We should offer huge thanks to the Democrats in Arizona's congressional delegation for casting that vote in favor of reform, especially Gabrielle Giffords, who was the target of vicious TV ads running every five minutes last Thursday through Sunday, paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce fronting for the big insurance companies.
Our own home-grown tea party warriors went to work against our brave congresswoman with tactics not worthy of civil society — yelling, honking, blocking traffic, and at 2:40am after the vote, shooting out the front door of the Giffords Tucson office.
I have also been hearing from some of our tea-headed friends on their opinion of the healthcare bill. Here is a letter I received yesterday from a local tea party
"I support any states rights law suit, to block health care in it's currant form which is being forced on the American people against their will from Washington DC.
Hopefully you will join other states in the suit against States Rights and our Constitution by these Socialist's."
Together with the base insults and spit being hurled at African American and gay members of Congress this weekend, these actions make you wonder how wise it is for legislative Republicans to eliminate all laws that place any restrictions on weapons belonging to anyone over 18. Yes, they are ignoring the advice of all law-enforcement organizations by trashing all concealed-carry laws, and laws that forbid carrying guns on campuses. In this time of unrestrained anger all around, is that a good move?
I think it is time our tea party friends calmed down a bit and took a look at the facts about the health care bill. It will even save Republican lives. I strongly suggest everyone read a great rundown of the features of healthcare reform in this AP story on the bill:
One feature will have huge implications for Arizona and for the 376,000 people on AHCCCS and 42,000 kids who have just been kicked off their health insurance by Governor Brewer and legislative Republicans. Their healthcare may just have been saved.
You will recall that Governor Brewer signed the Republican budget just last week to eliminate coverage for those earning more than 33% of the poverty level ($7200 a year for a family of four), and to eliminate KidsCare. A reporter asked her what those soon to be without healthcare should do when they get sick. She replied, "They should go to the emergency room."
Which is exactly why her budget places our emergency rooms in mortal danger, along with 42,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in matching funds from the feds. Treatment in emergency rooms of people without coverage are unreimbursed costs, potentially bankrupting our hospitals and endangering our emergency health network.
Now it will cost us even more if we don't restore coverage to these 418,000 Arizonans. A whole lot more.
The new federal healthcare plan does not allow states to change eligibility to current state health plans as of the date of its signing—today. The Arizona budget plan eliminates KidsCare on June 15. If we do not restore eligibility to those kids by that date, we will be in violation of federal law.
If we are in violation of federal law, we will lose all our federal matching funds to all our healthcare programs, but we will still be required to provide care to those making less than 33% of the federal poverty line.
That means we will lose $7 (seven) BILLION a year in federal matching funds. Unless we restore coverage to our fellow 418,000 Arizonans.
They have certainly shown themselves to be unreasonable at times, but even our Governor and legislative leaders cannot possibly be willing destroy our state's economy so utterly by walking away from $7 billion a year, in order to save $21 million by eliminating KidsCare.
Furthermore, if we revisit the recent budget and instead keep our voter-approved Proposition 204 coverage to those earning between 33% and 100% of the poverty line, we will be rewarded by 2014 with a hugely increased federal match for that coverage — for every seven cents we pay, we will get 93 cents from the Feds. That is the highest matching rate in the country, a reward for us having done the right thing by approving Prop 204 in 2000.
We House Democrats sent a letter to the Governor on Monday explaining the situation, and asked the Speaker to allow a late introduction of a bill to fix it. It's a simple, fair proposition. Our bill will restore the KidsCare program to cover those 42,000 kids, and it will be paid for by removing the exemption on sales taxes for extended warranties on items like big-screen TVs.
The $22 million raised by removing this loophole will entirely pay for the healthcare of these kids, and we get $3 from the Feds for each dollar we spend. And we get our $7 billion a year once again. Not a bad deal.
Unfortunately, Jan Brewer's response has been to threaten to sue Washington to overturn health reform. I hope that once reality sets in, they will finally work with Arizona Democrats and agree to restore KidsCare and AHCCCS eligibility so we can enjoy the benefits of a healthy economy and a healthy community once again.
One other bit of good news is that my ban on driving while texting passed out of the Senate on a 19-10 strongly bipartisan vote. As you recall, I am working with Senator Al Melvin (R-Saddlebrook) this year to pass the bill (SB1334) at last. The House remains a perilous place for such legislation, despite the proposal's common sense and popularity among the public, so there is still much work to do. Nevertheless, I feel that this may be the year we finally get this passed and start saving lives on our streets.