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Arizona lawmaker begs Congress not to cut Medicaid

(KTAR Photo/Kathy cline)

PHOENIX — A new Arizona coalition — which includes a Republican lawmaker — was begging Congress not to cut Medicaid.

Rep. Heather Carter (R-Phoenix) and others in the Modern Medicaid Alliance said Thursday that Medicaid cuts could affect Arizona’s bottom line — and its people, too.

“[The revised U.S. Senate health bill] threatens to return us to the bad old days of enrollment freezes; when uninsured patients flood our emergency rooms; and the cost to care for them is shifted to hospitals and to taxpayers,” she said at a press conference.

“Worst of all, it puts the health care of 400,000 Arizonans in jeopardy as the federal support for Medicaid is reduced. “I have been critical of Obamacare,” she said. “It has not lived up to its promises in many respects.

“The health exchanges are a failure. But Medicaid is not Obamacare.”

Nearly 2 million Arizonans were covered by Medicaid, including children.

Dr. Jared Muenzer, an emergency-medicine physician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said more than 60 percent of the facility’s patients have Medicaid — more than any other hospital in the state.

If funding was cut, “it basically comes down to who’s going to pay for that health care cost — whether that’s the population of Arizona [or] other federal programs,” he said.

“We’re going to have to find a way. Otherwise, those children are not going to have the care that they need.”

Muenzer did not say the hospital’s Medicaid recipients would be turned away if the Senate’s proposal was passed and signed by President Donald Trump.

However, the quality of their care would suffer.

“We employ as many physicians as we can, but we have areas where we need more. If we don’t have the resources or the funding to hire those, children are, unfortunately, going to wait for that care.”

The Modern Medicaid Alliance also included Navy veteran Jon Altmann, vice president of the Association of the U.S. Navy, a nonprofit that advocates for sailors.

He said if funding was cut it could affect thousands of Arizona veterans.

“Not everybody that’s a veteran can necessarily walk in the VA and say, ‘Give me care,’” he said.

“And, their families are not covered by the VA. As a group component, [Medicaid] has been a lifesaving program for them. We look at it as a hand up – not as a handout.”

The revised Senate health care bill cuts Medicaid expansion funding by 2024.

Those cuts would begin in 2025. Policy experts and others estimated Arizona could lose $3 billion under the bill.

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