Brewer is right on rolling back AHCCCS - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Brewer is right on rolling back AHCCCS

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Michael “Winey” Weinstein can be heard every Sunday evening on The Mike&Winey Show on News Talk 92.3 KTAR from 5-7 PM. (www.mike&winey.com).

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2011 8:30 am | Updated: 4:54 pm, Thu Feb 24, 2011.

Gov. Jan Brewer is no stranger to lawsuits. It looks as is she may be facing another one. This time it won’t be from the federal government, but rather from Democratic state lawmakers who are up in arms over her attempt to drop the extended coverage to approximately 250,000 Arizonans who have been riding the health care gravy train, better known as AHCCCS.

Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) is Arizona’s “Cadillac” health care program that has been providing free health care to low income Arizonans for years. AHCCCS, a Medicaid entitlement program, was extended a decade ago to cover over a quarter of a million state residents and this extension needs to be put out of our misery. The state of Arizona can’t afford it and the rest of us who pay for our own health care have had enough.

First, it comes down to economics. As a state, we are facing our fourth straight year of budget deficits. State lawmakers face an estimated $763 million shortfall this year and $1.15 billion on 2012. These deficits are unsustainable, and if we don’t make some tough decisions, will drive this state into financial ruin.

Opponents will criticize Gov. Brewer and other Republicans for being heartless and not caring for the poor. Quite the contrary. Arizona is one of six states that provides this most generous health care handout. It doesn’t come down to whether we want to continue this free health care extension. It comes down the fact that we can’t afford it.

Arizona is like any hard-working family. When we face tough financial times we need to make cuts. It is paramount that we find ways to balance the budget.

I, for one, support the governor’s decision to drop coverage to the nearly 250,000 Arizonians who have been freeloading off this extension of no cost coverage. I’m not rich. I don’t make a ton of money. I am sure not wealthy by the president’s standards, but I have made health care a priority for my family.

My wife has a pre-existing condition that has proven to be expensive. I pay more than $800 per month to ensure that my family is covered. That’s a lot of money and results in financial hardships at times for our family of four. We get no assistance from the state of Arizona. And, on top of the $800 per month I shell out to make sure my family is covered, I have been paying additional monies through my taxes to provide health care for others.

I keep thinking of the car I could be driving if I was on AHCCCS. $800 per month could buy me a sweet ride. Again, I make the sacrifices so that my family is covered in the event that my wife’s pre-existing condition flares up again. I am gracious to my fellow Arizonians by not putting my financial onus on them. I make the sacrifice so you don’t have to.

I don’t mind helping less fortunate people, but as President Obama has clearly pointed out to America, we all need to make sacrifices and we all should have “skin” in the game. Imagine if the 250,000 childless adults that will lose coverage were paying a mere $50 per month for their health care. That would equate to more than $12 million per month or $147 million per year. Now multiply that by the 10 years that the AHCCCS coverage extension has been implemented. You get the point.

No matter what side of the aisle you fall on, lawmakers need to make tough decisions and entitlement programs need to be cut. Whether you like her or not, Gov. Brewer is making these tough decisions for the betterment of the great state of Arizona.

Michael Weinstein is co-host of the “The Mike & Winey Show” and can be heard from 7-8 a.m. Sundays at KFYI (550 AM). He can be reached at winey@mikeandwiney.com.

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