Medicaid (AHCCCS) is the perfect example of a good program ruined by misguided activists pushing harmful agendas. Medicaid was originally designed for catastrophic conditions, tragic injuries, and the tiny percentage of people with absolutely no other option. Had Medicaid been left to its founding, we would have lots of money for transplant patients, and we wouldn't need heavy-duty chainsaw cuts in education and other areas to balance the Arizona budget.
Doubters are forewarned that I am an expert on Medicaid's original objective. My brother Charles, born in March 1962, was diagnosed with a heart murmur upon his entry into Head Start (now Kindergarten) in 1967. Charles' life was doomed to medical risk, since our poor family couldn't even think of paying for the expensive corrective surgery.
Fortunately, the Health Department informed my mother that a new program called Medicaid would cover monitoring - and surgery when Charles was old enough - but applied only to his heart condition, not his routine illnesses or injuries. Furthermore, Medicaid wouldn't cover any other family members, even though our income was below the federal poverty level.
When Charles was about 12, he went to Jackson, Miss., where surgeons got out the surgical saw, hammer and chisel, opened his chest and repaired his heart. He recently turned a robust 49.
Mississippi authorities weren't heartless or cruel. They were merely financial realists. Over half of us Mississippians had income below the federal poverty level, and I doubt 10 percent were at 1.33 of the poverty level. By Arizona standards today, at least 80 percent of Mississippi residents would have been on Medicaid in the 1960s and 1970s. Therefore, Mississippi used tough means testing for eligibility. This ensured those truly needing Medicaid always got it, and those who had any other alternative didn't. How did Mississippians do under these rules? Well, Charles is the youngest in our family, and his six siblings have lived long lives - just as our hundreds of extended family and friends have.
The point is Arizona can, and must, return AHCCCS to its original intent. First to go has to be all childless adults without catastrophic conditions. Next, we must implement strict means testing which requires people to place medical insurance as their first priority, not after all the other things they desire. We should reduce AHCCCS recipients to five percent of the population, or less. Doing otherwise forces us to gut our education funding, decrease the knowledge level of our population, and make our state unattractive to desirable employers.
The media and groups who oppose deep cuts in either AHCCCS or education are ignoring reality. Taxpayers cannot fund both anywhere near current levels, and Arizona must eliminate its structural budget deficit for fiscal and economic stability.
Fred L. Pinkney, Gilbert