Today brought a conversation that many of my fellow LDS Democrats hear on a regular basis. Midway into the morning I received a phone call from my wife who was clearly energized by her subject, and began to inform me of an organized petition that a church member asked her to sign. Here is our conversation:
“Some people in the church are trying to stop Obamacare.”
“Really? How is that possible?”
“I don’t know, they want me to sign a petition, and if they get enough signatures, they can overturn Governor Jan Brewer.”
“Who is arranging this? Did you ask what the petition does?”
“Somebody from the Stake (a large congregation in the Mormon church). I guess they are asking members to sign a petition which they are saying will stop the expansion of Obamacare.”
“Ahhh. They are trying to stop the expansion of Medicaid. They want to overturn Governor Brewer’s decision to accept federal funds for Medicaid. Go ahead and sign.”
“What? I thought you would be upset. You want me to sign?!”
“Sure. If Arizona wants to cut off its nose to spite its face…well…it’s not the first time.”
Now, after researching the petition my wife politely declined her signature and explained the benefits of expanding Medicaid and the cost savings of lowering the number of uninsured. I am sure her friend was perturbed. I am sure she was surprised that any rational individual would not agree that Obamacare was a destructive force conjured up by a misguided man in order to decay our healthcare system. So to her, the members of the Greenfield-Gilbert Stake, my fellow Arizonans, and any state opting out of Medicaid expansion I write the following:
Rejecting the expansion of Medicaid in Arizona will hurt our residents and negatively impact our budget. In brokering Obamacare, the Federal Government has accepted the increased financial burden by covering 93% of the incremental state costs. We will see significant savings from uninsured liabilities which will offset our obligation to the Medicaid expansion. Even more importantly, we will be covering thousands of our uninsured, whose choice to work negates eligibility for Medicaid. We will create jobs in the healthcare industry and expand access to preventive services (tests for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, cancer screenings, counseling to help people lose weight, quit smoking or reduce alcohol use, routine vaccinations, flu and pneumonia shots, etc).
Currently across the US, states rejecting Medicaid expansion will lose out on $8.4 billion in federal funding, exclude coverage for 3.6 million uninsured, and see $1 billion more in uncompensated spending. Obamacare will not raise taxes on 95% of Americans and will realize $18 billion a year in savings with less uninsured. Medicaid expansion also requires that doctors receive the same compensation as Medicare patients (currently Medicaid pays less). If all states participate twenty-one million Americans will see their rates decline. Obamacare is also completely paid for; it will not add a single dime to our national deficit.
Now my Arizonan friends, don’t naively suggest that our state does not need federal money. Arizona is one of several states that receives more that it pays in taxes. Currently the federal government returns $1.20 for every $1 we pay. In fact, over the past 20 years Arizonans have paid $424 billion in taxes and received $629 billion in Federal benefits. We also took money from Obama’s stimulus package when our budgets were in complete disarray saving police, fire, and teacher employment. With as much as our state has been given it appears borderline hypocritical to limit access to healthcare for the working poor needing help. The status quo is unacceptable and though not perfect, Obamacare is a step in the right direction for our great state and nation.
***I do not believe the Mormon Church is organizing opposition to Obamacare, but it is the isolated action of a few misguided members. The Mormon Church handbook is clear that “stake presidents and other local leaders should not organize members to participate in political matters or attempt to influence how they participate…Church leaders and members should also avoid statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, platform, policy, or candidate.”