A few days ago, governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed the Medicaid waiver request that could put medical care out of the reach of 300,000 people. Why that is news to anyone is surprising to me. Sure, the actual signing of the waiver is a little newsy, since Arizona rushed to make headlines by being the first state in the union to ask for it. But we already knew Gov. Jan Brewer cares nothing about the poor people she has been elected to govern. There is nothing new in that.
The real news happened November 28th, 2010, when 37-year-old Mark Price died because the state of Arizona refused to pay for his bone marrow transplant. At the last minute, a private citizen offered to pay the $250K for the operation, but it was too little too late. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCS), basically a committee, had refused to pay for the bone marrow swap a month earlier, citing budget cuts.
Price reportedly begged Gov. Brewer for the funds to do the transplant and save his life. There is no she even so much as batted an eyebrow with her resounding no. Price would not be the first to die under the new Arizona austerity rules. Another patient died in June of 2010 because he too was not able to get a transplant.
Since the Arizona governor is unwilling to fund life-saving health care, why should we be surprised when Gov. Brewer boots hundreds of thousands of poor people out of the medical system for runny noses and the flu? In fact, after seeing how cold-blooded the Arizona ruling class is, expecting these elected officials to take a positive step towards social issues like health care or immigration reform is like whistling Dixie!
Meanwhile, during the lame duck session, U.S. Senate Republicans signed a “no vote pact,” refusing to vote on nearly all laws including the START Nuclear Missile Treaty until the Democrats caved in and gave the Republicans a massive unfunded tax cut. Perhaps the crowd in Paradise Valley with their million-dollar homes will spend their $139,000 tax cut wisely. The U.S. Congress handed every single person who nets a million dollars in income that much! Heck, it would only have taken the generosity of two millionaires to save Mark Price’s life!
Lest you think this is only a problem for the poor, beware. As the baby boomers come into their golden years they will face a host of unanticipated medical problems. For the unfortunate, after catastrophic medical expenses eat through the insurance, the state will require all of your savings. If you still want to receive life-saving treatment you will have to sell your cars and finally even your home. In the old days, after you had spent everything you had, the state would take care of you through Medicaid. The message from the rich kids is, if you run out of money in Arizona today you are dead meat.
In the old days, legislators were expected to consider the needs of all people who lived in their jurisdictions. A new conservative class is making sure it takes care of the people who count. To them, money counts, campaign contributions count, influence counts. If you don’t qualify as one of the super-rich then you had better have fantastic insurance, because poor people don’t count.
Here is the real news. Gov. Brewer and her pals are playing for keeps. They will let poor people die without transplants instead of reallocating the money they are squandering defending SB 1070, the most vicious anti-immigrant law in history, which is costing millions to defend. Chasing starving Mexicans through the desert and getting big headlines for lawmakers count more than the desperately poor citizens of the state of Arizona.