The bishops of the Arizona Catholic Conference have endorsed Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid plan, joining a coalition of health advocates and business leaders who have already rallied behind the expansion.
“We are grateful for Gov. Brewer’s efforts to help some of the most vulnerable in our society with their critical healthcare needs,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, lauding the decision.
Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares was also pleased. Without the move, Bishop Nevares said, about 50,000 people probably would have lost their health care coverage.
Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, said that Brewer’s plan to expand Medicaid coverage was a smart move.
“The bishops were favorable toward Gov. Brewer’s new Medicaid proposal because of their concern for the vulnerable,” Johnson said. “We also think it’s a good idea because it will actually reduce the amount of money that the general fund is already spending in this regard.”
Brewer’s expansion of Medicaid coverage means that the state can access billions of dollars in federal funds and greatly reduce pressure on the state’s budget and core services such as education and public safety.
In order to protect the state budget, Brewer’s plan proposes to pay for the state’s share of Medicaid through “bed taxes.” The hospital assessments would then pull in more federal funding. About 30 other states have similar assessments.
Johnson stated that the ACC’s support for Brewer’s Medicaid expansion was by no means an endorsement for the federal health care law, which has come to be known as “Obamacare.”
“I want to make it clear that the bishops are clearly concerned with various aspects of the federal health care law — that remains,” Johnson said. “We are committed to keeping abortion funding out and carrying on all the other battles.”
Back in October, Johnson added, Brewer was careful to select a baseline plan for Arizona under the federal health care law that did not include coverage for abortion.
The governor was pleased to have the support of the ACC for her expansion of Medicaid coverage.
“I am thrilled to have the support of the Arizona Catholic Conference on an issue so critical to our State’s future,” Brewer said. “The dioceses represented by the ACC are well-known and respected for their commitment to improving their communities and the lives of our citizens. I am grateful to have such an honorable group in my corner, and I look forward to working with them as my plan moves forward.”