By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
On Thursday, April 25th 2013 Arizona Legislator Warren Petersen held a press conference at the State Capitol to rally opposition of Presidents Obama’s 2010 health care plan. Arizona Governor Jane Brewer along with many conservative citizens groups have spoken out in opposition to what they call ‘Obamacare’. Others, often on the liberal end of the spectrum, claim the Affordable Care Act will provide a safety net for citizens. Debate on whether Arizona should opt out of the plan and what this will mean for the people continue.
The Affordable Care Act, often called ‘Obamacare’, passed Congress amid controversy. Doctors and nurses asking for a voice in health-care reform were arrested at Senate hearings. Ralph Nader, a former Green Party presidential candidate, stated that “Instead of discussing options desired by the majority of Americans and many who work daily in hospitals and doctors’ offices the experts who helped legislators design the plan were insurance companies and business groups.” Others oppose parts of the plan such as a tax on cosmetic surgery included to pay for the plan; however the tax was dropped amid lobbying by plastic surgeons and the company that makes botox. Twenty states joined a lawsuit challenging the plans individual mandate, which penalizes Americans who don’t purchase health insurance. The challenge went all the way to the Supreme Court who allowed the charge as a tax.
Despite the controversy many are pleased with expanded health coverage in the plan. The act allows coverage for young adults on their parents plans up to age 26. This is a change that has already allowed 3.1 million young adults to get health coverage on their families plan. A temporary program for individuals with preexisting conditions provides coverage for over 50,000 Americans who face a barrier as insurance companies often reject them or require a much higher premium. Chronic diseases -which is responsible for 7 of 10 deaths among Americans each year and responsible for 75% of the nation’s health spending – are often preventable and the new plan makes many of these preventive services free. An estimated 54 million Americans gained access to these services in 2011. In 2014 plans which charge more for pre-existing conditions are expected to phase out and low to moderate income individuals are expected to receive tax credits for their health care costs.
Party politics have led to more confusion, with average citizens having to decipher claims of the success or failure of the plan which often have questionable merit. The Washington Post fact checker notes claims by Democrats of more small businesses providing healthcare under the plan and Republican claims of rising health insurance costs for businesses and consumers because of the plan. Both claims are based on data and trends that predate the plan passing Congress. Despite this fact, some claim businesses anticipation of expanded health care led to changes long before the plans final passage, making these claims valid. Since the expanded health insurance plan as an idea dates at least to the 2008 presidential race it is hard to prove such claims. Tanning salons face a 10% tax to help pay for the plan. The salons are often small businesses owned by women which has led to claims of discrimination. This has fueled a debate as to whether businesses are going under due to the added tax or poor economic times. Due perhaps to the differing claims from politicians many people are unaware that health care is available for them.
Several states have moved to opt out as much of the health care act as possible. Some of this is seemingly due to partisan differences with the President but other worries include subjecting citizens to a penalty if they are uninsured and blowback against the state from running a healthcare exchange. Another concern is the ongoing budget battle, with an estimated 1.2 trillion to be saved without state exchanges.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer declared in November 2012 that Arizona would not set up a state exchange, leaving the federal government to provide insurance for those not covered under employer plans. In her State of the State address Brewer announced she would accept federal funds for expanded healthcare, noting this brings money to the state. Many conservatives are upset at her taking federal money from Obama’s healthcare plan while many liberals are pushing for the state exchange. Bills were introduced along party lines to set up a state exchange by Democrat Dr Eric Meyer and Republican Carl Seel introduced a bill to prevent any state exchange being set up in Arizona. Neither made it to a vote by the legislature.
Arizonans are deeply concerned about their healthcare and the costs associated with it. Many different groups address efforts to expand healthcare such as ‘Healthcare-Now’ which has meet in Phoenix and Tucson to rally support and gathered legislators across the nation to call for expansion. Opposition comes from Arizona against Obamacare Expansion who held an event with Warren Petersen and other legislators on Apr 25th called the ‘Rally for Healthcare Freedom’ at the capitol. Circumstances and opinions differ; many Arizonans are waiting to see whether 2014 brings an end to pre-existing conditions and an exchange with perhaps 40% of Arizonans under 65 uninsured. Others believe the new plan will bring raised tax burdens for businesses and individuals along with higher healthcare costs overall.