Although we had a short floor calendar on May 1, we had some rousing debates. The highlight was a two-hour debate on SB1085, association health plans. (Watch the action here, beginning at 19:32 min.)
The Republicans have had three bills this year to lower healthcare insurance costs by encouraging people to leave the healthcare marketplace. I agree that the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors (like my husband who was offered a silver ACA plan for more than $1000 per month just for him.) This is why I voted for direct care contracts. I believe those are a better deal for sole proprietors than association health plans.)
I get that costs are too high, but the association health plans are not the way to go. They could, indeed, lower costs for business owners, but they could be risky due to limited coverage. There are reasons why these plans will likely be cheaper. Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”. If sole proprietor business owners want to take a risk with their own insurance and their own health, I have a mind to let them take their own risk. (Just don’t ask me to help you later with a Go Fund Me Request if it turns out I was right on limited coverage under cheap junk insurance plans.)
Where I object is when businesses are making these risky insurance decisions for their employees— just to save money.
Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many infants die. Too many new
Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many babies die. Too many new Moms die. Too many babies are born prematurely. Too many babies are born with birth defects. Too many pregnant women don’t get adequate prenatal care.
Some Arizona counties have been labeled maternal health deserts because of lack of medical care. Cochise, Graham, Gila, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yuma are the worst off. Around 50% of the babies born in Arizona are born to unwed mothers (which makes them more likely to live in poverty with their Moms.) And around 50% of the live births are funded by AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program).
Arizona’s lack of attention to maternal and child health and our stingy social safety net policies have exacerbated the situation and cost the state lives and money. Each premature baby born under AHCCCS costs the state around $1 million. How many of these one-million-dollar babies are accidents due to lack of access to affordable birth control and the scarcity of women’s health clinics, particularly in rural Arizona? We should be funding women’s health and well baby clinics in rural Arizona and should be hiring community health workers to do outreach with pregnant women and new Moms. You can hire an army of community health workers for the cost of one or two premature babies.
In the Health and Human Services Committee, we have heard a few different insurance plans that would be cheaper and less comprehensive alternatives to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
With SB1105, healthcare moves into the gig economy. SB1105 covers direct primary care agreements, a non-insurance alternative to the ACA. In Arizona, people are already allowed to make one-on-one contracts with a healthcare provider for certain services for a designated mount of money per month.
This bill clarifies existing law and says that these contracts are not insurance and, therefore, not regulated by the Arizona Department of insurance. It also says that you can have contracts with doctors, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, dentists, and physical therapists.
If you take this to it’s illogical extreme, you could have multiple contracts with different providers for different menus of services. Unless you are really good at contract law, you could end up having several contracts, paying monthly bills to each of these providers and still not getting the care that you need. Since these plans are not insurance, you would not be able to take your complaints to a bureaucrat at an insurance company or at the Department of Insurance.
Direct current primary care agreements are supposed to fill a niche in the healthcare market. The ACA is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors. These are business people who are their business. Professional people, consultants, artists and musicians could all be sole proprietors.
When I ran for office in 2016, I said I wanted be your voice—the voice of the people—in the Arizona Legislature. And that is exactly what I did.
I used my voice, my votes, my amendments, and my bills to fight for the rights and wellbeing of workers, patients, teachers, students, women and the underserved.
Protecting your family…
I was a strong voice for public health and affordable access to care during the negotiations and eventual passage of both the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act and dental therapy. I also co-sponsored a bill to allow Arizonans to buy-in to Medicaid (AHCCCS). This is a potentially cheaper option for folks who are struggling with the cost of health insurance. House Democrats will be proposing it again in 2019.
On budget night 2018, I proposed an amendment to appropriate $56 million in federal child care subsidies to fill the $80 million gap left after Republicans swept the funds during the Great Recession. Arizona House Republicans voted to leave those funds unspent; Arizona is the only state in the country that didn’t use those earmarked childcare funds. (I’ll try again in 2019.) I also backed a bill for tiered reimbursement for childcare subsidies. This bill, which was signed into law, and the $56 million in subsidies would go a long way to help Arizona families and children.
Protecting your rights…
Also on budget night, at around 4 a.m., I defended the rights of pregnant homeless women to have access to abortion and abortion referrals. I have seen young homeless women with infants on the streets of Tucson. The streets are no place for adults– let alone children and babies. Because we are a state that does very little to help women once their babies have been born, I believe we should expand access to contraception and all legal medical procedures and teach medically accurate sex education in the schools.
Two years in a row, I proposed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona. Arizona women won’t have equal pay for equal work without passage of the ERA. Overall, women are paid roughly 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Due to the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity and gender, African-American women, Native American women and Latinas are paid far less than white men. Latinas make roughly 55 cents per hour for every $1 earned by a white man. Tucson’s population is 41% Latino. Just think of the economic impact to our city and our region if Latinas were paid fairly and if they were offered quality education for themselves and their children. It doesn’t do our community, our state or our country to force people to live in poverty and sickness.
For the past 30 years, my career has focused on health promotion, disease prevention, behavioral research, and communications. I have seen, photographed, and written about the good, the bad and the ugly parts of our country’s healthcare “system”.
I saw the rise of HMOs (health maintenance organizations) in the 1980s. I cheered the Clintons for at least trying to fix the overly complicated mess in the early 1990s. I saw costs going up every year and service going down. I saw a health insurance system that was creaking under the weight of its own complexity, while big insurance and big pharma collected huge profits. As managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, I stood proudly by the Editor-in-Chief when he and the Editorial Board called for Medicare for All on multiple occasions.
Along the way, I have heard stories about huge medical bills, uncompensated hospital care, outrageously expensive drugs, limited or delayed access to medical care, premature death and disease, medical bankruptcy, and the medical consequences of poverty.
Do you have concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and Kids Care? Is the cost of medical care or prescription drugs a worry for your family? How would dramatic cuts to these programs impact you? Come to the 200 Stories: Tucson Healthcare Forum on Oct. 29.
Do you have concerns about the Affordable Care Act and repeal attempts; about the future of Medicare and Medicaid; or about access to care or the cost of drugs?
Whether you are a patient or a provider, we want to hear your medical and health insurance stories. The LD9 and LD10 Legislators are holding an open mic forum in which we listen, you talk, and we all learn.
This is a free educational community event for residents of Pima County. It’s about listening and learning from each other. Senators David Bradley and Steve Farley and Representatives Kirsten Engel, Randy Friese, and Pamela Powers Hannley have confirmed their attendance. (Rep. Todd Clodfelter was invited but has a scheduling conflict.)
In the news, we hear what politicians and big corporations think should be done with our country’s overly complicated and extremely expensive health care system. At this event, the people of Southern Arizona will have an opportunity to tell us their stories and help shape future policy.
Mark your calendars for October 29, 2017. The event will be held 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, 4831 E. 22nd St.
Please take a few minutes to register with EventBrite by clicking here. We want to make sure we have enough seats.
Watch Facebook and other social media for updates.