Take Action & Make A Difference

County votes to support Brewer on Medicaid

April 2, 2013
The Bugle
Scott Orr

PRESCOTT - The all-Republican Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to issue a resolution in favor of Gov. Jan Brewer's support of a major element of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

The proposal Brewer, also a Republican, is advocating has met with opposition from within her own party. It's a component of the so-called Obamacare plan that expands Medicaid coverage to people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That's $15,400 for individuals, and it would add 17 million uninsured adults and children nationally to Medicaid.

Brewer's about-face on the issue puts her in the company of some other Republican governors, such as those in Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio, who will go along with the plan.

It calls for the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the tab in 2014, then 95 percent from 2016 to 2019 and 90 percent in 2020.

While 10 other Republican governors said their states won't participate, Brewer said the federal dollars would go to other states that do accept it if Arizona doesn't.

"The Governor's Office contacted Yavapai County last week," Board Chairman Chip Davis said. "She wanted to reach out to the counties so we could also reach out to our legislators, and I felt it was appropriate to get our resolution out first."

Several key officials and community leaders spoke in favor of the plan, including Tim Barnett, President and CEO of Yavapai Regional Medical Center.

"This is a courageous thing (Brewer) is doing in trying to accomplish this for our state," Barnett said. "We at the hospital treat people that have no other options...but what happens is, (the uninsured) show up in our emergency rooms, and that is the most costly and most ineffective way to treat people."

He said the plan would cover "the working poor in our communities, people trying to make a living, trying to make a go of it."

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk told the board that she had testified two weeks ago at the House Appropriations Committee hearing in Phoenix, explaining why she favors the Medicaid expansion.

She said the plan would "make Arizona and Yavapai County a safer place.

"We saw and have seen an increasing impact on our criminal justice system" as a result of a statewide 2011 freeze on enrollment in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state's Medicaid program, for the single-childless adult population.

"What we have seen is an increase in the number of individuals who suffer from untreated mental illness who end up in our criminal justice system," she said. The problem, she said, is when they end up in jail, "we treat them, we stabilize them, we address the criminal offense, where they still don't qualify for AHCCCS."

Polk said that leads to a "revolving door, where they decompensate, re-offend, and they're back in our criminal justice system." 

"That's terrible," said Chairman Chip Davis.

Sheriff Scott Mascher echoed Polk's comments. "I don't think there's any question that our mental health (treatment) procedures are broken," he said, noting that the YCSO gets phone calls from people saying, "'This person needs help,' but they don't fit into any (indigent care) program."

Supervisor Tom Thurman said Arizona might have to join the plan in any case. "It's mandated that a state accepts and does this program unless they prove they can't afford it.

"I have a lot of friends and constituents who believe this is just catering to the Obama administration, but it is what it is. (Congress) passed it, and the president signed it," he said.

"I just want to make this clear: I, in no way, shape or form support Obamacare," Supervisor Craig Brown said, but he allowed that this particular part would be good for the state.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of drafting a resolution in support of Brewer's plan.

<- Go Back