2012 session missed healthcare (My Turn)

May 23, 2012 by  

“You can’t change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight”.

Speaker/author Jim Rohn may not have had Arizona in mind, but his principle certainly applies.  The Arizona Chamber summed up our situation like this, “the Legislature hit reboot on the Arizona economy and turned what was a basket case into a best case.”

While almost every state suffered precipitously low revenues during this recession and historically slow recovery, how did Arizona end this year in the black with significant savings to spare – while creating 47,000 new jobs in February & March alone?  Especially considering that Arizona was one of the states hardest hit.

In short, we acted like grown-ups.  Like thousands of Arizonans who lost their nest eggs, jobs, and homes, the state made our budget work while funding essential priorities – education, public safety and health care for the most vulnerable. The 2013 budget is balanced, as will be the 2014 budget – without the borrowing, sweeps and rollovers previous budgets employed – and without additional cuts.

In contrast, California continues its deficit spending, like Congress and much of Europe, and is stifling economic recovery by hiking taxes (i.e. Obamacare).  This is precisely why this budget wisely saves for 2015 contingencies until the economy fully recovers. Responsible adults looked ahead and based today’s decisions upon reality, not wishful thinking.

In at least one respect, however, the 50th Legislature acted more adolescent – by missing the
opportunity to address one of the biggest drivers of our multi-trillion dollar debt crisis – health care. Like teenagers that put off their chores ‘til tomorrow, which never seems to come,
Legislators succumbed to lobbyists’ arguments to shelve free market reforms…for more study.

It’s never going to be a convenient time to address the real cost drivers in health care.  There’s a lot of money at stake.  But it’s not rocket science, and we know what isn’t working. At nearly 30%, Medicaid spending surpassed elementary and secondary education spending as the largest component of total state spending in 2010.  Obamacare adds 18 million to the 60 million people on the program now – increasing the tab even more.

We know Obamacare is going to cost us all more. To start, the law’s regulations to date have pushed premiums at least 31% higher than in 2006 and already driven health insurers out of the market, reducing competition and choice.  Plus, 78 million workers stand to lose their insurance when 45-50% of employers (McKinsey & Co.) discontinue offering it if Obamacare takes effect.   After all, 71 Fortune 100 companies could save about $28.6 billion in 2014 alone by eliminating coverage for their 5.9 million employees.

We have nothing resembling a free market in health care currently. But one won’t evolve by itself. States must promote price transparency, fewer regulations, more insurance options, med-mal reform, risk pools and innovative alternatives to Medicaid.  Patients deserve nothing less than our commitment to protecting their health care freedoms – necessitating a vibrant, competitive health care market.

This My Turn submitted by Sen. Nancy Barto appeared in the May 23rd edition of the Arizona Republic.



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