Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brewer's Medicaid cuts will cost thousands of jobs

Emily Jenkins, CEO of The Arizona Council of Human Service Providers. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Jorge Salazar)

Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Cuts Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed to Arizona’s Medicaid program would result in the loss of vital programs and cost thousands of jobs, leaders of several Arizona health organizations said Tuesday.

“We’re very concerned that this means that not only will we lose money to provide services to people but the employees of our agencies will lose their jobs, which will affect their families and their communities,” said Emily Jenkins, CEO of The Arizona Council of Human Service Providers.

Several groups involved with the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System hosted AHCCCS Provider Day at the Capitol, treating lawmakers lunch and explaining their concerns.

Among their points: Many jobs in Arizona are supported by state and federal money that comes in through the Medicaid program, and many low-income Arizonans depend on the care their groups provide.

On Tuesday, Brewer asked the federal government for approval to suspend AHCCCS coverage for 280,000 people due to the state’s budget crisis. It’s part of a plan to help address a projected $1.15 billion deficit for fiscal 2012, including $542 million in cuts to AHCCCS.

Jenkins said her organization stands to lose coverage for approximately 34,000 people with mental health issues.

“The revenue support is not just for jobs. It pays for real estate [and] facilities,” she said. “It pays for the groceries [hospitals] buy for patients at the hospitals, office supplies, utilities, all the things that support the economy within the communities.”

Karen Puthoff of PSA Art Awakenings, a psycho-social rehab program for adults that have serious mental illnesses and youngsters that are challenged by behavior illnesses, said the AHCCCS cuts will affect her program dramatically.

“At least 58,000 people are going to be affected by an at least 5 percent cut to take place beginning in April with one of our funding sources,” Puthoff said.

“We see it only getting more challenging. We are going to have to provide a lot more services with a lot less funding, so it will strap staff and it will be much more difficult for us to help the population in need if they are not qualified to receive the benefits,” she said.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Brewer understands that providers and people are affected by the cuts. But the alternative would mean cuts to essential services such as education and transportation, he said.

“There is no question that this would have an impact on the economy, but there is also an impact if the waiver is not accepted,” Benson said.

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