Home / Opinion / Commentary / Vote yes on Prop. 480 to modernize our county health system

Vote yes on Prop. 480 to modernize our county health system

Yes on 480bMany people have come to know our “county hospital” through the iconic 1970s-era tower on East Roosevelt Street, known as Maricopa Medical Center.

Most don’t realize the Valley has actually had a public hospital system dating back to Arizona’s territorial days. Since then, Maricopa Integrated Health System has been delivering quality, cost-effective health care to all who enter its doors.

But MIHS is more than a safety-net hospital for our most vulnerable. It’s a place with a unique mission like other great public hospitals across America’s largest urban areas. Almost every major metropolitan area in the United States has a public hospital system.

As Maricopa County’s only public hospital, MIHS serves a distinctive role that no other hospital can fill.

MIHS includes a world-class teaching hospital, a Level 1 trauma center for adults and children, the nationally acclaimed Arizona Burn Center, the Valley’s leading mental health facilities and 11 community health centers that cover the Valley – particularly in underserved areas.

It is a great point of pride that the emergency room and trauma center is a preferred destination for police officers, firefighters and emergency responders who get injured in the line of duty while working to keep our communities safe.

These are just a few reasons why such a broad and bipartisan coalition of business and community leaders, elected officials, as well as public-safety and medical professionals are backing Proposition 480 and asking for your vote on Nov. 4.

The truth is, this is a critical time for MIHS.

The hospital system is delivering 21st century health care in facilities that were constructed more than 40 years ago – when President Nixon was in office. The buildings are outdated, their designs obsolete and their technology outmoded. MIHS has to spend millions of dollars each year on repairs of outdated and worn equipment.

Over these decades, modern medicine has significantly advanced patient treatment, reducing hospital stays and improving recovery times. This is why a new Maricopa Medical Center would have fewer beds, not more, and a greater focus on outpatient care and mental health services.

While some facilities, such as the county hospital, would be smaller and more efficient, a portion of Prop. 480 would expand behavioral health services to meet the growing demand to serve the seriously mentally ill.

As community members and stewards of our public hospital system, we take seriously the responsibility of protecting taxpayer dollars. We can tell you with certainty that Proposition 480 is the fiscally responsible solution.

Your elected MIHS Board of Directors and an independent bond committee of 15 civic-minded community leaders – through two years of study in open meetings, public outreach and facility assessment – determined it would cost more to maintain the aging facilities over the next 30 years than build and update new ones. Plus, with the lowest interest rates in history, the cost of floating a bond makes more economic sense than any other time in the last 100 years.

There is something else about MIHS that many people don’t know: It’s an economic engine. Besides employing more than 4,500 people, MIHS operates the county’s only public teaching hospital, training more than 400 of the best and brightest doctors each year.

Most of the doctors who train here, stay here. About 75 percent stayed in Arizona last year, which goes a long way in helping to address the physician shortage in Arizona.  Arizona ranks 43rd in the country for doctors per capita.

Incredibly, some individuals looking after their own self-interests – and others whose ideologies simply cannot accept the idea of a public hospital system – have made the erroneous claim that other hospitals could absorb the patient population that MIHS faithfully serves.

Once you get past the talking points, it’s clear this “just say no” plan would serve only their interests while overburdening an already stressed health care system in Maricopa County.

MIHS has a unique mission and represents less than 5 percent of the total market share.  MIHS patient population is nearly 90 percent AHCCCS or charity care.  Reimbursement rates for AHCCCS patients are well below that of private insurance. MIHS provides the best care at the lowest possible cost of any health care facility in Maricopa County.

In short, our medical professionals work every day on the front lines of the most severe trauma, burn and mental health cases. And they provide care for all who enter our doors. No one is turned away – ever.

Voting “Yes” on Prop. 480 helps ensure MIHS’ legacy will last for generations to come.

 – Dr. Kote Chundu, Mike Cowley, Mark Dewane, Rich & Karie Dozer, Phil & Juanita Francis, Sue Gerard, Tom McKinley, Paulina Morris, Bill Post, Fran Roberts


  1. MIHS educates and trains world class physicians that continues to serve our communities, but what you did not mention is the impact of nursing and the quality of care they give to this unique population. Nurses compile a large amount of the voting population in Maricopa County and are considered to be the new driving force in healthcare. The personal influence and approach we have with patients and the community should not be underestimated!

    I am having difficulty finding the location and times for the next public meeting regarding the 480 Bond. Could you please send me the information, so I may pass it along.

    Thank you.

  2. How will this be paid for? You leave that out of the narrative above. If it is a bond then say so and explain the how and why otherwise all the voter thinks is more taxes and they will vote no.

  3. This is proposed to be paid for by issuing bonds with a maximum of 10% per year. Compare this to individual savings accounts which bare .1% (a tenth of one percent) per year. This proposal seems to be for investors to get rich, more than anything.

    In 2013, this was a quote stating accomplishments MIHS had already accomplished:
    Opened a new Pediatric Emergency Center at the Arizona Children’s Center, dramatically improving the way we deliver care to our youngest patients.

    Made significant upgrades at the Comprehensive Healthcare Center and our Family Health Centers, where our top quality doctors, nurses and medical staff provide care to an increasing numbers of residents, regardless of their ability to pay.

    Created newly renovated Labor and Delivery Rooms, a new cardiac facility and new imaging equipment. Nearly 300 patient rooms have been upgraded.

    Implemented a new electronic medical record and finance system that gives our medical staff access to nearly 300,000 patient records, including up-to-the-minute lab results.

    Add to that, salary for the CEO, who is brand new, will be 500,000 per year. Many of We The People (myself for example) barely make 20,000 a year full time.

  4. Okay. I work in Ruben Gallego’s campaign. He supports the proposition, I just want to know what were the facts on the prop. Like how much each homeowner had to pay per 100k of home worth per year, and also what the benefits are from a resident point of view.

  5. Only home owners pay. They are the only ones that should be able to vote.

  6. Home / Opinion / Commentary / Vote No on Prop. 480; It’s expensive and unwise
    Vote No on Prop. 480; It’s expensive and unwise

    By: Guest Opinion September 18, 2014 , 7:01 pm

    no on 480In a recent Arizona Capitol Times commentary, advocates peddled support for Proposition 480, the county hospital bond proposal. It was revealing that the advocates left out the most important piece of information about the proposal; the price tag. This wasn’t an oversight but rather a clear recognition that the overwhelming cost of the proposal is impossible to justify.

    Incredibly, the Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS), a special taxing district with a relatively narrow mission, is proposing the third largest bond/tax proposal in the state’s history; $935 million or $1.4 billion with interest added. Certainly, the size of the request is very bad news for property taxpayers that were devastated by the Great Recession and saw effective property tax rates climb as much as 30 percent from 2009 to 2014.
    Kevin McCarthy

    Kevin McCarthy

    Interestingly, the proponents took readers down memory lane, recalling that the county hospital has been with us since territorial days. Certainly, when the county hospital was created there was no AHCCCS program and for decades it was the county’s responsibility to pay for the poor and uninsured. However, they left out of the history lesson the facts surrounding the dramatic and costly changes that have occurred in publicly funded health care in Arizona over the last 30 years. That part of the history lesson raises troubling questions about the redundant funding for low income health care in Maricopa County.

    Our nation and the state of Arizona are presently making enormous investments to ensure all citizens have access to health insurance and preventive care, which will be incredibly expensive. Since January of this year, 300,000 Arizonans have been added to AHCCCS, Arizona’s participation in Medicaid, because of restoration and expansion programs. Nearly 1.6 million Arizonans (25 percent of the population) have insurance through AHCCCS, which they can use at a variety of facilities around the state. The uninsured population is small and is decreasing. Maybe the best evidence of the declining role of MIHS is the bond proposal actually calls for a dramatic reduction in the number of patient beds (515 to 250) at the new hospital.

    The expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act are creating massive changes to the health care industry. The only certainty is more Arizonans than ever before have access to insurance and the costs will be extraordinary. At a minimum, government should stop pulling levers on the health care industry until the dust settles on the massive changes recently implemented.

    The CEO’s of the four largest private hospital systems in the Valley recently questioned the need for the bond, stating their belief that there is currently plenty of capacity for hospital patient services. A tax increase of this historic amount should have the support of the taxpayers footing the bill as well as the private hospitals that MIHS should be working in cooperation with. Prop. 480 has neither and should be rejected.

    — Kevin McCarthy is president of the Arizona Tax Research Association

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