Medicaid expansion means hundreds of thousands will be insured i - Tucson News Now

Medicaid expansion means hundreds of thousands will be insured in Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Sixteen more graduates of Pima Community College's practical nursing program took an oath Thursday to help those in their care.

"It means a lot to me," said program graduate Gabrielle Sanchez.

Sanchez said that she expected Arizona's expansion of Medicaid to 300,000 more Arizonans will mean a change for the better.

"There's a lot of people that don't have the health insurance, so I do feel like it would put an impact on us and it's going to cut down hopefully the fewer ER visits that we have and then hopefully decrease the length of stay in the hospitals," she said.

"Instead of cost shifting the costs of the uninsured to hospitals or physicians or other health providers who take care of the uninsured, we're actually getting people covered so that we're spreading the cost of that and not just shifting it to someone else's side of the ledger," said Dr. Dan Derksen, with the U of A College of Public Health.

But the money must come from somewhere.  The state must provide more than $200 million for the almost $2 billion in federal funding from the Affordable Care Act.

Opponents in the state legislature and elsewhere have said that the funding will contribute to the national debt and will put Arizona on the hook if the federal money dries up.

But Derksen said that if the federal government backs out of the deal, the state will also pull back the expansion.  He said that the plan keeps Arizona's medical costs from climbing out of control.

"It's trying to get that cost curve to bend.  It's not going to dip, it's not going to decrease the cost of healthcare overall because we have an aging population.  We have a population that's increasing.  But if we can just get the cost of healthcare to be more in line with the growth of our economy, we'll do fine," Derksen said.

He also said that the expansion is estimated to create 20,000 additional jobs in Arizona.

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