Experts from Rural Economy Conference Blast GOP Health Care Plans / Public News Service

The 44th Annual Rural Health Conference begins today in Flagstaff, tackling the question of how health reform could affect small towns.(MachineHeadz/iStockphoto)

July 25, 2017

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – As the Senate prepares to vote today on whether to proceed with health-care reform, experts at a conference on rural health in Flagstaff that starts today are warning that the proposed cuts to Medicaid would be a disaster for small-town Arizona.

The Congressional Budget Office says 22-32 million Americans could lose health-insurance coverage over the next ten years – depending on which bill the Senate considers passing.

Siman Quaasim, director of Health Policy at the Children’s Action Alliance, says 400,000 Arizonans could lose coverage – many of them in small towns.

“The policies being put forward in Washington are not the policies that work for our state,” she says. “We need solutions that make the lives of rural Arizonans better, their families healthier, and more economically independent. Not proposals that shut them out of health care, cut rural jobs and expose families to bankruptcy.”

A recent study showed that in non-metro areas, 54 percent of children are covered by Medicaid, which is called AHCCCS in Arizona. And 17 percent of older rural adults rely on Medicaid for long-term care and services that help them stay in their homes.

Dan Derksen, director of the Arizona Center for Rural Health at the U of A, says the state stands to lose $7-14 billion in federal funding over the next ten years – which could cost up to 25,000 jobs in the health care sector.

And, he notes the state would have a hard time plugging the massive hole blown in the budget.

“So the state general fund would have to come up with another half billion dollars just to maintain childless adult coverage that we had expanded more than a decade ago in Arizona,” he says.

Derksen warns that the GOP health plans could put many rural hospitals out of business, and take local pharmacies and nursing homes down with them. He says he’d like to see Congress work on bipartisan fixes to the ACA to increase competition in the health-insurance market and bring down premiums.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service – AZ

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