Health care has been one of the most hotly contested issues behind closed doors in Washington, D.C., and in communities all across the country this year. Here in Arizona, thousands of residents have voiced their concerns about the devastating effect the House and Senate proposals would have to individuals, families and the economy. Gov. Doug Ducey has argued against any bill that would cause “Arizonans to have the rug pulled out from underneath them.” And Sen. John McCain’s pivotal vote against the “skinny repeal” bill gave us a chance for a better approach.
McCain warned that it is time to return to regular order and involve both sides of the aisle to deliver affordable health care to the American people. Unfortunately, another small group of Republicans only is attempting to revive the dangerous ideas that have already failed, as well as block emerging bipartisan efforts to strengthen federal health care policy.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., have developed a bill with reported input from Ducey and other Republican politicians. Like every other repeal bill so far, this proposal would pull coverage from hundreds of thousands of Arizonans and tens of millions of people nationwide. The proposal shares the same flaws of the other bills: ending Medicaid expansion and cutting Medicaid coverage for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children; increasing out-of-pocket costs for people who purchase health insurance through the Marketplace; and leaving governors, such as Ducey, to decide who will get health care in the years to come.
If this bill becomes law, Arizona will be damaged. We would lose more than $1.6 billion in federal health care funding by 2026, as the bill replaces guaranteed federal funding for Medicaid and Marketplace subsidies for middle income families with an increasingly shrinking block grant. After that, block grant funding would completely disappear, eliminating the resources that cover 425,000 Arizonans. Changing Medicaid into a block grant or per capita cap means putting 1.5 million children, seniors, and people with disabilities at risk of losing coverage – with governors deciding who gets hurt first. The bill does not adjust federal funding to pay for public health emergencies like the opioid crisis, newly discovered prescription drugs, or changing demographics. In fact, funding cuts would be deepest precisely when need is greatest.
Ducey should know this bill would mean a reversal on his promise and McCain understands that without engagement with Democrats and stakeholders in the health care world, this proposal offers the same failed plan just with a different name. Parents and grandparents, people with disabilities, seniors and working adults, hospitals and physicians all reject this misguided approach. Arizona leaders should say no to Cassidy-Graham and focus on bipartisan solutions that strengthen our health care system.
— Dana Wolfe Naimark is the president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.