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Ducey to Congress: Don’t rush Obamacare’s repeal

(Photo by Ryan Cook)

(Photo by Ryan Cook)

Saying he fears harm to Arizonans, Gov. Doug Ducey today urged Congress to not to rush repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t want to see any Arizonan have the rug pulled out from underneath them in terms of changing this law,” the governor told an audience of business executives, lobbyists and lawmakers.

“We can take a little time to get there,” he explained. “There’s no rush, although we should have sense of urgency because it’s topical now.”

Ducey said it’s not that he’s a fan of the program, calling Obamacare a “monumental failure and a rolling disaster.”

The governor said that has been borne out as the program has matured, with 14 of the state’s 15 counties having only a single provider. And he said premiums are increasing by 50 percent or more.

“This program is failing under its own weight,” Ducey said.

But the governor sought to dampen the enthusiasm of Republican members of Congress, who already are moving to make outright repeal of the program their first order of business.

“The skill is in the replacement of what everyone wanted to see, which was a better health care market,” he said.

Ducey said that will require a more measured approach than what occurred in 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was rushed through so quickly with no Republican votes that some members of Congress quipped that they had to vote for the measure to know what was in it.

“This time, how ‘bout you read the bill before you sign it?” Ducey said.

More to the point, the governor said this time, Congress should have broad input, including from patients, doctors, advocates, insurers and the pharmaceutical industry.

That statement, however, ignores what did occur.

Obama convened a “health summit” shortly after taking office and brought in all of the interests that Ducey said now need to be part of what comes next. And it took months before the final plan was approved by Congress.

Explaining his position after his public comments, Ducey said it’s important for the new Congress to see the matter not just in terms of finally having the votes – and a signature from the new president – to get their way on an issue which not a single Republican had supported.

“I think the first thing to realize is that we are talking about people and people’s lives. The problem with Obamacare is that it was rushed and it was hurried and it was partisan,” he continued, saying he believes federal lawmakers can do better if they take the time.

But Ducey was cagey when asked if he had conveyed his views to the Republican members of the congressional delegation, many of whom ran on platforms of making the repeal of the Affordable Care Act their first priority.

“I think I’m being recorded right now,” he quipped, suggesting that his views will get to Washington, D.C. through the media.

There’s a potentially more immediate – and more direct – concern for Ducey, if lawmakers repeal the federal law and the funding that goes with it.

Ducey’s predecessor, Jan Brewer, took advantage of one provision of the Affordable Care Act that said the federal government would pick up pretty much the entire cost if states expanded eligibility for their Medicaid programs.

Medicaid already paid about two-thirds of the cost for what Arizona had, which was free care for persons below the federal poverty level. But in 2013, Brewer got lawmakers to extend the program to those up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level on the governor’s promise that it would bring in $1.6 billion a year.

Ducey inherited that program. But if the Affordable Care Act goes away, so does the federal money.

The governor sidestepped questions of what his backup plan is.

“These are all hypotheticals and I’m not going to deal with them,” he quipped.

But it was that hypothetical that caused Brewer in 2013 to take a strong stance against Republican members of Congress, who already were trying to repeal the law.

Brewer said then, like Ducey said Friday, that she was never a fan of the program, pointing out that she was among several governors who sued, unsuccessfully, to have it declared unconstitutional.

But she told Capitol Media Services at the time that, once it was clear the law would take effect, she sought ways to have Arizona take advantage of the provision that rewards states that expand their Medicaid program. And she said that made it worthwhile to fight with legislators from her own Republican Party and even form an alliance with Democrats to push the plan through.

“The bottom line is we need that money in our economy to save rural hospitals and jobs in rural areas,” Brewer said at the time.

One comment

  1. As I read the comments, one question that is not answered is what is the source and cause of rising premiums? Is it the doctors raising costs? the hospitals? or is it the fact that we are finally insuring people with pre-existing conditions and insurers feel this type of coverage cuts into their profit margins? Is it that preventive services must be included as part of the plan benefit? Preventive services will save lives? or are Republicans upset because it was not their vote that put the plan in place and now want to destroy it? Do not deal with us voters in generalities, give us the specifics on why premiums have gone up and the reason companies like BCBS are moving out of Maricopa? The federal dollars coming into the state to help with the Affordable Care Act are huge. Employers are offering employees insurance coverage, but their premiums have gone up. Why? These are the questions you as a publication should seek answers for. Voters want to know. You cannot say it is a disaster and not give us the facts. We do not want to play politcs, we want answers.

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