AZ healthcare officials push for AHCCCS expansion - CBS 5 - KPHO

AZ healthcare officials push for AHCCCS expansion

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It's a major decision that will impact Arizona for years to come.

Gov. Jan Brewer and state lawmakers are considering whether Arizona will opt-in and expand the state's Medicaid program under the federal government's Affordable Care Act.

Kurt Sheppard is the CEO of Valle Del Sol, a community-based healthcare organization that serves low-income families.

He told CBS5 that if the state agrees to expand the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to include everyone who is below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, it will save thousands of lives.

"If someone has cancer, that is serious," said Sheppard. "Without healthcare that is a death sentence."

However the decision to opt in and expand Arizona's Medicaid program is by no means a done deal, according to state officials.

Some state lawmakers have expressed concerns about the Affordable Care Act, insisting that Arizona can't afford it.

The latest data shows that AHCCCS expansion will cost Arizona $1.5 billion from 2014-2017.

But in return, the federal government will give Arizona around $7.9 billion back in matching funds.

Pete Wertheim is vice president of Arizona's Hospital and Healthcare Association.

He said that the money the feds are offering  to expand Medicaid is too good to pass up.

According to Wertheim, AHCCCS expansion will not only provide health coverage to more than 300,000 Arizonans, it will also pour billions of dollars into the state economy, create jobs and reduce premiums for businesses.

"We need to look past the ObamaCare and the whole philosophical issues," said Wertheim. "It comes to whether this a good deal and what makes sense for Arizona. I hope we can get passed the rhetoric and move forward and do what's best for our healthcare system."

The governor's office recently released this statement:

"Gov. Brewer recognizes the critical importance of these decisions involving the Affordable Care Act, and is focused upon identifying solutions that maximize affordability and quality of care while providing our state the flexibility necessary to maintain a sustainable system."

The governor is expected to make a decision on Medicaid expansion after the first of the year.

If Brewer supports expansion, it will then be up to the state legislature to decide whether Arizona opts in.

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