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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Last updated: 4:52pm

Welfare over politics: Bipartisanship does not equal betrayal in Brewer's support of Medicaid expansion



In her State of the State Address in January, Gov. Jan Brewer said she wanted to expand Medicaid coverage to give 400,000 Arizonans healthcare. The financial considerations alone seem to have trumped partisanship for Brewer, and other Republican lawmakers in Arizona should jump on board.

Yet, many of Arizona’s GOP legislators are far from this step. In March, Maricopa County GOP Chairman and active member of the Tea Party A.J. LaFaro compared Brewer to Judas.

LaFaro has since apologized for his remarks but refuses to resign.

However, the remark isn’t the problem. The problem is that in today’s political climate, you can earn yourself the label of traitor for showing any hint of bipartisanship.

Brewer isn’t betraying the Republican party, she’s trying to take advantage of federal government money offered under the Affordable Care Act. The money will provide insurance to Arizonans and will create jobs in our healthcare system.

Arizona could stand to gain $1.6 billion dollars each year when the expansion hits full stride. A recent study by ASU predicted this revenue would bolster the economy by creating 15,000 jobs — far more than any tax cuts could produce.

The plan would be relatively affordable because the federal government will initially cover the full cost of insurance provided to new beneficiaries and it will pay 90 percent of the cost after 2020.

Brewer also worked in a fail safe so Arizona could back out of the expansion if the federal government’s contribution falls to below 80 percent.

Arizona would only be responsible for paying $256 million, which Brewer plans to compensate for with a provider’s assessment on hospitals. This assessment is supported by hospitals and has worked effectively in other states.

In fact, the whole plan is supported by hospitals who currently treat poor and elderly patients who cannot afford to pay for healthcare. Why send them to the emergency room for treatment that a primary care physician can provide at a lower rate and in a more timely manner? As a result, hospitals are forced to raise rates on paying patients to cover their losses. As the system stands, people with insurance ultimately pay more on their co-pays and insurance premiums.

The inefficient use of funds doesn’t stop there. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said she’s seen a rise in the number of mentally ill people who have been incarcerated since Arizona cut back on its funding for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program. Incarceration is an ineffective to treat those with mental illnesses, not to mention costly.

Brewer isn’t betraying anyone by supporting an expansion of Medicaid. She’s reaching out to help Arizonans in need, and she’s putting the state’s interests ahead of politics. There may be no such thing as free money, but this is just about as close as it gets.

LaFaro and other Republican legislators in the Arizona House and Senate have argued the plan will only add to the national debt, yet the federal government is going to start helping other states regardless of whether or not Arizona jumps on board. It makes sense to collect the spoils now while the offer is still on the table instead of leaving Arizonans to suffer.

The governor’s job is to serve the citizens of the state of Arizona When presented with a opportunity that will benefit the people of the state, she should seize it. Helping people afford healthcare does not make her a traitor.

— Nathaniel Drake is a sophomore studying political science and communications. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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