By Christina Corieri
Last week, the Arizona Senate passed Medicaid expansion. Sadly, the proponents were not satisfied with merely passing a program expansion we can’t afford; they actively worked together to kill a series of common sense amendments that would have prevented extra expense and abuse.
One amendment would have activated the circuit breaker if the federal government ever dropped its share of the cost below the promised 90 percent, but every senate Democrat and five Republicans voted the amendment down, signaling that the Feds should feel free to increase Arizona’s costs.
Another amendment would have required an independent audit to ensure hospitals don’t pass the provider tax on to patients. Expansion proponents voted the amendment down, making it easier for hospitals to illegally pass the cost along without fear of being caught.
An amendment was offered to require an annual report on the quality of care provided by AHCCCS, Arizona’s Medicaid program. Although taxpayers have a right to know whether their money is being put to good use, these same senators voted the amendment down. Without this transparency, proponents can continue to assert how well the program works without risking evidence to the contrary.
This coalition also voted down amendments designed to curtail non-emergency use of emergency rooms and ambulances, which result in high, unnecessary costs to the state. Likewise, they voted down amendments to require health professionals and pharmacists to check the prescription monitoring database before authorizing or filling a member’s prescription for a controlled substance such as Oxycodone, Percocet, or Vicodin. These amendments would have saved taxpayers from paying for and enabling addictions to these medications.
While the Medicaid expansion is a costly and misguided policy, these amendments were not poison pills but sensible ways to mitigate some of the costs and prevent abuse. The proponents, however, made a bad bill much worse by rejecting these amendments. Thankfully, the Senate does not have the last word. While we hope the House declines the Medicaid expansion, at a minimum, we hope it supports some common sense amendments that will help protect taxpayers.
Christina Corieri is a health care policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute.