Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ariz. hospitals rip plans for health program cuts

By Paul Davenport
Associated Press

Cutting health care programs to help close Arizona's budget deficit would inflict pain on more state residents than the nearly 400,000 people who stand to lose Medicaid coverage or other services, Arizona hospital officials said Wednesday.

"The cure is worse than the disease," said John Rivers, president of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. "The proposed budget does a lot of long-term damage to the prospect of recovery in the economy."

The association said the proposed cuts in health care programs would result in 42,000 fewer jobs throughout the economy, and they would burden individuals and businesses with higher health care costs, clog emergency rooms, and generally make the state an unattractive place for people to live and businesses to locate.

Rivers said a tax increase may be needed to pay for the state's health care programs.

To gauge the jobs impact, the association commissioned a study by Arizona State University economists. The report was based on economic modeling of the impact of reduced state funding and lost federal matching dollars.

The hospital group, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other advocacy groups are pushing back against a part of Gov. Jan Brewer's budget-balancing proposal that calls for major cuts in health care programs, including Arizona's version of Medicaid, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

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