Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cheers to Governor Brewer!

Governor Jan Brewer deserves congratulations for pushing Medicaid expansion through the Republican-controlled Arizona House of Representatives. She is smart enough to understand that Medicaid expansion represents a tangible benefit for hundreds of thousands of low income Arizona citizens. Not only that, it relieves a huge financial burden on hospitals, who must accept all patients in emergency rooms regardless of their ability to pay. Not only that, Medicaid expansion is a tremendous benefit to the rest of us, who must pay the costs of treating the uninsured in the form of higher insurance premiums and higher medical bills. With  expanded Medicaid coverage, all of those financial burdens are tremendously reduced, and lots of people will now be able to visit doctors and clinics instead of relying on much more expensive emergency room care.

Every state participates in the Medicaid program. Every single state. But since the Supreme Court gave states the option of refusing to accept the expansion of Medicaid, most of the states controlled by Republican Governors and Legislatures have said they will refuse to participate in the expansion. This can only be for political reasons. Otherwise how could these public officials refuse to allow their own citizens to obtain tremendous benefits at very little cost to the states, since the federal government picks up the lion's share of the cost of these programs? How could they condemn their own citizens to untreated illness and death? How could they deny hospitals and doctors the opportunity to obtain reimbursement for services, again at very little cost to state budgets? How could they refuse to relieve the burden on the rest of us, whose health insurance premiums and hospital billings must go up to cover the cost of uninsured patients that hospitals must treat at no charge?

Let's hope Governor Brewer's sensible actions serve as a model for other Republican governors and legislatures to break the logjam over Medicaid expansion, and get this much-needed reform in place for every state.

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