Did Lives Lost After Medicaid Freeze Change Brewer's Mind?

Politics

Did Lives Lost After Medicaid Freeze Change Brewer's Mind?

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YUMA - Following her State of the State address at Arizona Western College this afternoon, Governor Jan Brewer visited Yuma Regional Medical Center. There, she held a press conference to further promote her proposal on expanding the Arizona's Medicaid program.

Governor Brewer says expanding the program will keep rural hospitals, like YRMC, from picking up the costs to treat uninsured patients.

An official at the Yuma Regional Medical Center told KSWT News 13 today, the expansion of Medicaid could save the hospital about 12 million dollars per year. KSWT News 13 also wanted to address an issue Brewer said hit her hard when she froze Medicaid in 2011. At the time, about a quarter of a million low-income Arizonans lost their insurance coverage. Among them were people waiting for organ transplants. Two of those people died - because they didn't have insurance. Today we asked Governor Brewer if those deaths had anything to do with her change of heart on Medicaid expansion.

"You know, it was a difficult time. We had to make the budget balance. I took an oath. I have to abide by the oath that I take. Difficult. It was a difficult decision. It wasn't that anybody got kicked off of the roll, so I don't think they had the correct information either. We froze it, so they couldn't get back, they couldn't join the program and so by attrition those numbers kept going down. But I strongly believe that it's the right thing financially, economically and it's a moral issue. Voters have voted for it twice," replied Brewer.

Despite Brewer's change of heart on expanded Medicaid, it will still need the approval of state lawmakers. Brewer says opinions are currently mixed, but if Arizona doesn't take and use the federal funding, it will just be given to another state willing to expand their Medicaid program.

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