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Wed, July 17

Editorial: Tobin's looking out for the taxpayers

Earlier this month, Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, wrote a Courier Talk of the Town column concerning the state Senate's approval of Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid proposal in which he stated, "This is why I am proud of what my colleagues and I did, by working with our governor, and in a bipartisan manner, to do what is in Arizona's best interest. ... It wasn't courageous - it was our job! We were elected to do a job not keep it, or pass it off for the voters to decide. My grade comes at election time."

The Medicaid proposal "will restore the law of (Arizona) without decimating our state's fiscal health - period," he added.

That is what we believe House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, is doing as well. Tobin acknowledged this week that he doesn't have enough votes in the Legislature to get the Medicaid proposal on the ballot as he hoped, the Associated Press reports. Instead, he's now working directly with Brewer's office to include accountability measures he wants in a bill before it goes to a vote.

Voters. Accountability. Call it lawmakers' "job."

Tobin has been dubbed the linchpin for Medicaid expansion. It could advance or fall on his watch.

Brewer's plan would charge hospitals a new $250 million per year assessment to match $1.6 billion a year in federal money and cover 300,000 more poor Arizonans on AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System), the state's Medicaid program. She told the AP the expansion is needed to relieve hospitals of millions in uncompensated care and give poor Arizonans health insurance.

Tobin's core issues he wants in the bill include assurances that hospitals don't pass on the assessment to insurance companies; a clear end to the expansion like what was included in the Senate version; and a way to have the director of AHCCCS not be in charge of both setting the hospital fee and reimbursement rates. He added that ratepayers should see some benefit, since Brewer cites a $2,000 a year "hidden healthcare tax" that people pay in higher premiums.

"My understanding is we're trying to solve this hidden healthcare tax piece, which means you have to help the providers not absorb so much of the uncompensated care," Tobin said. "Well, the governor's proposal seems to help the providers, but we haven't seen that it helps the taxpayers."

Again, a lawmaker - in his fourth term, meaning he is term-limited - doing his job.

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