What will new health care bill defeat mean for Arizona

Published: Jul. 28, 2017 at 7:38 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 31, 2017 at 12:58 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima County's Health Director, Dr. Francisco Garcia, said the defeat of the ACA repeal is likely good news for the county, local hospitals, rural hospitals and patients in the short term, but there is still concern about what happens to Medicaid.

Pima County has about 100,000 Medicaid recipients who received what may be a short-term reprieve on their health care benefits.

"If you're a person on Medicaid, you should be worried," he said. "You should feel like yes, there were some small victories this week, in terms of protection of that, but I think it's very much a vulnerable program."

The reason is because of the Medicaid expansion for the 31 states that did it, it represents the bulk of the Obamacare funding.

In Arizona, 460,000 people use Medicaid, a medical program for low income and the poor. If Obamacare is repealed, then likely Medicaid gets eliminated or sharply curtailed causing a ripple effect.

Many local hospitals, which have seen as much as a 300 percent d rop in uncompensated care, may be facing that dilemma again.

Tucson Medical Center lobbied for the expansion because it was losing millions of dollars because patients were not able to pay. Many times, they were sick but waited until they were violently ill before seeking treatment when treatment is more expensive.

Small, rural hospitals, like in those in Willcox and Sierra Vista, survive because a large part of their patients are Medicaid recipients.

If they lose funding, they could be shuttered.

For the opioid epidemic, 70 percent of the hospital patients being treated for addiction, as paid for by federal dollars, much of it Medicaid.

"It means those people will not be able to get the care," Garcia said. "Those people will not have the resources that they need to overcome their addiction."

Garcia says the county will continue to watch the debate closely but does not think the Medicaid expansion is out of the woods yet.

"Protecting Medicaid expansion, to be clear, is our highest priority," he says of the county efforts.

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