Commentary: Rural health care a critical component of reform
This month, a new Congress and President take over in Washington, D.C. I’m energized by the fact that we have strong and unified leadership in both the legislative and executive branches, and I’m eager to see a free-market agenda put to work for the American people. One of the most vital issues to address is health care.
I have long been a vocal critic of Obamacare. When it first passed, the American people were told they would “find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices.” It is now clear that those promises have proven false, especially here in our own backyard. Arizona has been referred to as “ground zero” for the damage inflicted by Obamacare, and with insurers fleeing the market and many Arizonans seeing premium increases of over 100 percent this year, it is easy to see why.
I fully support repeal of Obamacare. It has been a monumental failure and a rolling disaster. Obamacare took a bad health care system, and made it worse. Let’s not forget, there were major flaws in the system we had before. We have all heard the stories of individuals who were unable to find coverage due to a pre-existing condition. These individuals need access to health insurance, and for them, the thought of repeal and returning to a time when they could not buy coverage is very scary.
The key is in replacement, something congressional leaders and President Trump all support. We need to replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care reform that actually works for the American people, and especially, for Arizona.
I agree with our incoming Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price: I don’t want to see any Arizonans have the rug pulled out from under them.
This means not only ensuring individuals have access to insurance coverage, but also ensuring that they have access to quality hospitals and doctors to treat them. This is especially important to large, Western states like Arizona, where more than 10 percent of our residents live in rural areas. In these parts of the state, it can already be difficult to access quality health care, especially for those who have trouble traveling long distances because of their age or a disability, or lack of reliable transportation.
As Congress moves forward on a path towards repealing and replacing Obamacare it is critical that patients seeking care in Arizona’s hospitals retain access to the full range of high-quality medical services they need and deserve. This means that legislation that repeals Obamacare, must also repeal the Medicare and Medicaid hospital reductions embedded in the law to ensure our community hospitals have the resources they need to meet their public health and safety mission on behalf of Arizona citizens. It stands to reason that just as policymakers are likely to rescind the hundreds of billions of dollars in Obamacare taxes imposed for the sole purpose of funding this massive law, they should similarly rescind the “hospital tax”, specifically the hundreds of billions of dollars in scheduled reductions to inflation updates and the Medicare and Medicaid DSH payments that help Arizona’s hospitals care for uninsured, low-income, and disabled Americans.
We don’t want to see rural Arizonans lose access to care or have to travel unacceptably long distances to get life-saving medical treatments which would create a serious problem, especially in emergency situations, where seconds and minutes can make the difference between life and death.
In the last decade or so, Arizona has already lost three rural hospitals. As part of the repeal of Obamacare, there must be a patient-focused, common-sense replacement that also protects the viability of our rural health care providers.
When it comes to Obamacare, Nancy Pelosi infamously remarked: “We have to pass the bill, so you can find out what was in it.” Let’s not make that mistake again. Congress needs to take its time, read any new healthcare bills – and let Arizonans read the bills – before moving forward.
Our state’s medical community -- as well as my administration -- are committed to making sure all Arizonans have access to world class health care. Congress must do the same for all Americans.
Doug Ducey, a Republican, serves as the 23rd Governor of the State of Arizona.