Apr 27, 2013 1:50 AM by Nathan O'Neal

State lawmakers at odds over governor's medicaid expansion program

TUCSON - Tensions are running high at the state capitol as Governor Brewer's plan to expand the state's Medicaid plan is drawing fire.

The affordable care act provides federal money to expand the state's Medicaid known as AHCCCS. It could add some 300,000 Arizonans to the healthcare coverage plan but some state senate republicans are critical of the move.

Senate Speaker Andy Biggs, a Gilbert Republican, said he won't support anything that embraces "Obamacare," vowing to do everything he can to stop a vote from happening, even offering up an alternative to cut 63,000 single childless adults from AHCCCS.

For Tucsonan Christina Jasberg, it hits close to home. She has been living with mental illness for most of her life.

"Without any healthcare, it's kind of just throwing them out to the wolves," Jasberg said.

The last round of AHCCCS cuts almost cost Christina her life as a perfect storm of problems overwhelmed her.

"I started getting some obsessive thinking and thinking about hurting other people and thinking about hurting myself," Jasberg said.

Unable to afford her anti-psychotic medication, she began cutting herself, ultimately leading to an overdose.

"I almost died, so it was very scary," she said.

It's folks like Christina that lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle worry might fall between the cracks if the governor's Medicaid expansion plan isn't adopted.

"I can tell you that treatment in a clinic and treatment on the front end is much better than someone ending up in the emergency room, costing our tax payers a lot of money... or raising insurance rates through uncompensated care, or even worse, ending up in our criminal justice system," said Rep. Ethan Orr (R) from District 9.

While some leaders in the state legislature vow to block the governor's plan from reaching a vote, Democrat Senator Steve Farley of Tucson says it would cost the state more to not implement the program.

"It's going to help most people throughout the state and throughout the country, especially here in Tucson and we've got to go with what we got," Farley said.

As for Christina, she's hopeful that AHCCCS will cover her again so she can build on top of her recovery.

"I never want to take that for advantage or feel entitled to anything but I do want to feel well. I do want to keep moving forward in my life and I think I deserve that," Jasberg said.

Both state lawmakers Orr and Farley say regardless of their political affiliation, the governor's Medicaid expansion plan, at the very least, deserves an up or down vote.


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