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AZ State Senator Kelli Ward opposes Medicaid expansion

Posted: March 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm   /   by

Freshman state senator urges GOP members of Congress to fight against Obamacare

By NEIL YOUNG/The Daily News

PHOENIX — District 5 State Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, is a physician who was elected to her first office in November, replacing the term-limited Ron Gould.Ward, vice chairman of the Senate Health Committee, ran for office in opposition to the national Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
“If we nationalize and socialize our medical system, the doctors will be told what to do and how to treat and that’s the slippery slope that we’re on right now,” Ward said.She said she feels Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate aren’t doing all they can to slow down the implementation of Obamacare.“Of course, I’d love them to be fighting it every step of the way,” Ward said. “That is the only thing we have right now, other than the states standing up and being strong to prevent something that really, still, the public does not want but it just continues to be rammed down our throats.”

Ward opposes Gov. Jan Brewer’s plans to accept $1.6 billion in federal funds to add 300,000 people to the state’s Medicaid system as part of Obamacare.

“I think there are many unintended consequences that are going to come from accepting this money from the federal government. One, I don’t think that the federal government has the money to give us,” Ward said.

The feds would fund the state’s Medicaid system at 100 percent for three years, and then 90 percent in the fourth year.

“So we would have to find that 10 percent, which the estimates that I’ve been given are about $200 million,” Ward said.

“If we put 300,000 more people suddenly into our Medicaid system, who’s going to take care of them? Right now, it’s very difficult for people to get a doctor’s appointment, especially a primary care appointment,” Ward said. “There’s no place for them to go to get the care that is the best care that they need which is primary care and preventive care. So when they get their card, they’re likely to seek care in the emergency department because it’s a place where the federal government says everyone can go no matter what.”

Ward said, according to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2000 and 2010, “people on Medicaid were more than two times as likely to seek care in an emergency department than people who were uninsured or people with private insurance. So we’re creating a population that has been proven to seek care at the highest-cost place.

“My worry is that they’ll be a glut in the emergency departments and people with a true emergency may not be able to be seen as timely as they should be,” Ward said.

“With federal immigration reform on the front burner right now, we don’t know how many people will suddenly have legal status in Arizona. The estimate is that we have about 600,000 people here illegally,” Ward said. “So there’s almost a million people that we’re going to suddenly put into the system and expect for them to get access to high-quality cost-effective health care and I just think that’s really impossible.”

Legislators opposed to the acceptance of Medicaid funds, which some see as the institutionalization of Obamacare, are reviewing their options on how to try to thwart Brewer’s plans. One possibility: The state has to levy a Hospital Bed Tax in order to receive the $1.6 million, Ward said. Proposition 108 requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature to raise taxes, she said.

Regarding her three months in the Senate, Ward said, “I still think I’m in the learning phase of this experience, but I’m learning more and more each day.” She spends a lot of time reading bills introduced in the legislature.

The Health Committee chairman recently gave Ward the opportunity to run a meeting. She described the experience as “a little intimidating, but I think it went pretty well.”

Interview interrupted

for Senate roll call

In the middle of her interview with the Daily News, Ward received word she had to hurry down to the Senate chamber for some legislative business.

When Ward returned, she explained, “I don’t want to be counted absent. The Senate rules are if you’re not there whenever roll call is done, then you’re counted absent, even if you show up (so) I try not to be late.”