Medicaid expansion should aid seniors - Your West Valley News: Suncity

Medicaid expansion should aid seniors

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Posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013 11:15 am

Seniors between the ages of 50 and 64 would benefit if Gov. Jan Brewer successfully pushes through her plan to expand the Arizona’s Medicaid program, said the former director of the state’s AHCCCS program.

“The group of seniors between the ages of 50 to 64, could definitely benefit from it,” said Dr. Len Kirschner, former director of Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. “This particular population has probably been affected the most with layoffs and the economic downturn, so they can’t afford health care, so I know it will be important to them.”

Kirschner said Brewer’s support for the Medicaid expansion will cover a significant part of the Arizona senior population, except for those 65 and over.

“The impact on those individuals will be minimal because they’re on Medicare,” said Kirschner, a Litchfield Park resident.

Brewer recently rallied doctors and nurses to the state Capitol in an effort to get the necessary votes for expansion.

The rally occurred as Brewer had trouble convincing members of her own Republican Party to support the health plans.

But Kirschner said the expansion would help the state financially and bring a $1 billion in federal money.

Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko, whose District 9 covers Sun City, said she’s still undecided about the Medicaid expansion.

“Right now there is still a lot more to learn about this before I make a decision,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I think there are several other scenarios besides this one that we could use. We really need to work through this before we make any decisions.”

However, Lesko said she does believe the expansion will help some seniors, especially those who live in the Sun Cities.

“Some seniors are covered by Medicare and then might have some secondary insurance, while others don’t have any because of the economy,” Lesko said. “So I do believe the expansion will help in those matters.”

Bill Thrift, president of the Arizona Medical Association, agrees with Kirschner that the governor’s plan helps the state financially.

He said it would bring in $1.6 billion in federal dollars, with the state’s $250 million a year match covered by a levy on hospitals.

After the rally on Tuesday, Brewer told reporters she remains an opponent of the Affordable Care Act. But the governor said that “elections have consequences” and that her Republican colleagues need to recognize that voters returned Barack Obama to the White House even after the controversial measure was approved.

“Why would they cut off their nose to hurt their face?” she said of opposition to taking the federal dollars.

She also pointed out that most parts of the law were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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