Today Arizona legislators will consider whether to authorize a request for a federal waiver allowing the state to temporarily suspend coverage of nearly 280,000 people enrolled in Arizona’s version of Medicaid (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System).
Regardless of whether the federal government will actually grant the waiver, it interesting to see the effect this will have on our state’s emergency departments. Numerous studies over the past ten years have shown that the uninsured use emergency departments at a lesser frequency than those on Medicaid. This is so because those eligible for Medicaid are generally the poor, the disabled and the elderly (three segments of the population that have a much higher rate of chronic disease than other population segments). Logically, the chronically sick use the ED more frequently because they tend to need immediate medical attention more so than other segments of the population.
If Arizona becomes the first state to be granted a waiver that allows them to suspend Medicaid coverage below 2010 levels it seems likely that the majority of those individuals will continue to be uninsured until the coverage is reinstated. Thus, Arizona may be the first state to suspend Medicaid coverage on a huge scale and dump a chronically ill population directly into an uninsured health care population. Rest assured it will impact Arizona hospital bottom lines negatively because of the increase in self-pay (uninsured) patients. It is impossible to anticipate where health care coverage is headed, but it certainly will be interesting to watch and it seems we may be on the front lines here in Arizona.
If you have a question about changes to the AHCCCS contact Arizona Attorney Robert Chelle