Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Be angry that that there are so many poor Arizonans, not that they get Medicaid

Arizona’s 39 really conservative Republican legislators are apoplectic that 14 conservative Republican legislators joined with 37 Democrats this week to hand Arizona’s really conservative Republican governor the expansion of the state’s indigent health care that she told them she wanted in her January State of State address.

In fact, apoplectic is an understatement. The roiling rage of the virtuous conservatives is off the chart. The Sons of Liberty weren’t as mad at Benedict Arnold as these conservatives are at their fellow conservatives.

The anger is historic in the annals of Arizona’s Legislature.

In future legislative sessions, whenever a coalition of duly elected legislators band together to form a majority and pass a law that irritates a minority of duly elected legislators, the measure of the outrage will always be compared to this week.

We can imagine some future legislator turning to another and saying, “Boy, they sure are mad over there.” And his buddy says, “Yeah, but that’s nothing compared to the temper tantrum tirade of 2013.”

Too bad all that anger is misplaced.

The legislation will add about 350,000 people to the Medicaid rolls, most of the cost of which will be covered by the federal government.

That’s a lot of people. But what rarely gets stated during arguments about whether to let those poor blighters onto the Medicaid rolls is how many people already are.

The expansion will increase Medicaid enrollment in Arizona from a little more than 1.2 million to a little less than 1.6 million.

That’s about one-out-of-four Arizonans who are so poor they qualify for government-funded healthcare.

There’s your outrage. That’s what everyone in the Legislature and the state should be red-faced about.

Amid all the garment rending this week about the cost of Obamacare and Medicaid, very little was said about the best way to reduce the cost of indigent healthcare in Arizona – reduce the number of poor people.

Republicans have controlled the Arizona House of Representatives since 1966 and the Arizona Senate since 1992. Arizona’s governor has been a Republican for 16 of the past 23 years.

That’s a full generation of Republican control of Arizona. In that time, Republicans have cut taxes more than a dozen times without ever raising one. The only tax increases that have been passed the past 23 years were by voter ballot initiatives, two to provide more money for education (one of which sunset last month) and two to provide more money for indigent health care.

Republican orthodoxy says low taxes are supposed to rev the state’s economic engine thereby putting a chicken in every pot.

Well, thanks to the recent recession, the economic engine is barely above idle and a lot of pots are empty.

So what is our Republican-controlled Legislature doing about it?

Next to nothing. Of the more than 200 new laws passed by the Legislature this term, only one does anything to help raise the poor out of poverty and will inject billions into the economy – the Medicaid expansion.

You need to be healthy to work. You need to be healthy to go to school.

If you’re worried about the massive cost of government-funded health care for the poor, reduce the number or poor and you’ll save the state billions.

If you want to be angry, be angry that there are so many poor Arizonans.

Then do something about it.

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