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Rep. Kwasman’s opposition to AHCCCS expansion filled with ‘misinformation’

Based on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System’s (AHCCCS) blueprint, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is rebuilding his state’s Medicaid program. He is the 21st governor to develop a broader Medicaid program. Finally, Florida can do what we in Arizona pioneered: Establish a private-public partnership where private health plans, not the government, coordinate health care for their patients. It’s refreshing to see states across the country emulating Arizona’s model of patient-centered care managed in the private marketplace.

While the rest of the nation is working toward what already exists in Arizona, it is disheartening to read misinformation like the recent commentary ‘Medicaid expansion would be a ‘nightmare’ for Arizona,’ written by state Rep. Adam Kwasman. Rep. Kwasman characterized AHCCCS “as trapping people into an inferior health care system.” Rep. Kwasman’s assertion is simply untrue. AHCCCS patients are treated in world-class institutions like the University or Arizona Medical Center in Tucson, Barrow Neurological Institute and Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

55,000 health care providers across the state provide care to AHCCCS members. Members have their choice of a health plan and their choice of doctors; exactly the kind of care Rep. Kwasman says we all should want. AHCCCS, which manages the health plans, is regarded as the nation’s “gold standard,” as Gov. Jan Brewer said in her State of the State speech. In fact, AHCCCS is nationally ranked as having among the lowest costs while providing high quality care.

Although Arizona was the last state to join the federal Medicaid program we were the first in the nation to find a better, more cost-effective way to provide health care, an idea not lost on Gov. Scott, who said: “To be clear – our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens – or – using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other healthcare reforms.”

Gov. Brewer made it clear that health care reforms – pioneered by AHCCCS – are a critical part of her plan to restore what the voters of Arizona ratified nearly a decade ago: developing a comprehensive Medicaid program. Rep. Kwasman’s so called “noose of big government” certainly makes for good, if not bombastic oratory, but I would remind him of the certain nobility in carrying out the will of the voters. In a democracy, voters ensure a decentralized power structure. It was the economist Milton Friedman who said “concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.” Regardless of Rep. Kwasman’s views about health care in this state, the voters have spoken… twice.

It’s about time we get back to the work of rebuilding Arizona’s economy and Gov. Brewer’s Medicaid proposal does just that. Remember, the AHCCCS program is implemented by the private sector and that this model is the most cost-effective way to provide health care for our most vulnerable citizens, the same citizens that Rep. Kwasman purports to support.

 - James Stover is CEO of the University of Arizona Health Network, Health Plans

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