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 nursingprogram took an oath Thursday to help those in their care.

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

Sanchezsaid that she expected Arizona's expansion of Medicaid to 300,000 moreArizonans will mean a change for the better.

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

"Insteadof cost shifting the costs of the uninsured to hospitals or physicians or otherhealth providers who take care of the uninsured, we're actually getting peoplecovered so that we're spreading the cost of that and not just shifting it tosomeone else's side of the ledger," said Dr. Dan Derksen, with the U of ACollege of Public Health.

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

Opponentsin the state legislature and elsewhere have said that the funding willcontribute to the national debt and will put Arizona on the hook if the federalmoney dries up.

ButDerksen said that if the federal government backs out of the deal, the statewill also pull back the expansion.  He said that the plan keeps Arizona'smedical costs from climbing out of control.

"It'strying to get that cost curve to bend.  It's not going to dip, it's notgoing to decrease the cost of healthcare overall because we have an agingpopulation.  We have a population that's increasing.  But if we canjust get the cost of healthcare to be more in line with the growth of oureconomy, we'll do fine," Derksen said.

He alsosaid that the expansion is estimated to create 20,000 additional jobs inArizona.

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