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GOP health care bill will be devastating for Arizona kids, advocate says

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Health care for Arizona kids is in danger if the Republicans’ latest version of the American Health Care Act passes. The bill, which has already passed the House, would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance, according to an official analysis.

“Although congress says it’s about repealing Obamacare, it goes much further,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of the Children Action Alliance.

“It actually slashes federal funding for AHCCCS [the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System], and that could affect up to 750,000 kids in Arizona,” she said. “That’s how many are covered now.”

The changes will affect everyone, said Naimark.

“Not only if you have affordable coverage through Medicaid, but if have through the marketplace or through your employer,” she said. “[In addition] it allows insurance companies to charge much higher premiums for people with health conditions and for seniors.”

People who have their coverage through the marketplace will see their premiums go up, she said. And some people will literally be shut out of coverage.

“And in our marketplace in Arizona, one-in-five people covered through the marketplace is a child,” she said.

That’s much higher than in other states.

“People with pre-existing conditions could literally be priced out of the market,” Naimark said. “And we could go back to the days where there is no health insurance they can get that is affordable.”

There are also cuts to several public health programs including childhood immunizations, infectious disease control, childhood lead poisoning prevention, and prevention of chronic disease, such as obesity and diabetes.

“Arizona would be hurt even more than other states because we have a fast-growing population,” she said. “We have a fast-growing population of seniors and other groups who county on Medicaid coverage.”

If the GOP plan is passed, it will be up to Governor Ducey to decide who gets shut out, who doesn’t get healthcare services, and what kinds of treatments not to cover, she said.

“He’ll be the one having to figure out how to balance a budget in the absence of a federal partnership,” Naimark said. “It’s a far reaching and devastating proposal. And that’s why we really are asking the Senate to start over and do something that makes much more sense.”