May 22, 2013 7:49 PM by Lorraine Rivera
TUCSON - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer visited Tucson Medical Center Wednesday rallying support for her plan to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of Arizonans.
Brewer urged medical staff, business leaders, and patients to call their legislators urging them to vote in favor of the measure. If approved, more than 300,000 Arizonans would gain access to coverage of the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System, commonly referred to as AHCCCS.
The insurance program currently covers 1.3 million Arizonans.
Brewer said,"if the legislature does nothing more than 60,000 Arizonans now on AHCCCS will lose coverage, totally and instantly at the end of the year. That includes cancer patients in the middle of treatment, diabetics, heart patients and about 2,000 Arizonans with serious mental health illness."
The governor says Arizona can drawn down from the federal government approximately $8 billion over the next four years. She said funding for the program will come from federal tax monies already paid by Arizonans. Brewer said the measure returns those dollars to the state. But critics say the idea supports President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act.
Ethan Orr, a republican in the House of Representatives is one of the few republicans who supports the measure, "it is not right that Tucsonans should continue to pay higher and higher insurance premiums because of spiraling, uncompensated care."
Members of Hope Incorporated attended the rally Wednesday. The organization assists mental health patients with recovery, wellness and reintegration. Eric Stark, a community outreach coordinator, said the funding was crucial to the mental health community, "knowing that you have medical coverage when you truly need it means that you can go out and pursue those other goals."
The Arizona Senate has voted in support of the measure, it heads to the House of Representatives next week. Brewer said she is hopeful, "I deliberated long and hard. I knew there would be a fire storm. I wanted to do the right thing. But we all pay federal taxes, we send it to the federal government, now this is our opportunity to bring those federal dollars back into Arizona and put it to good use."