By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
For many years, Arizona was the only state in the union without Medicaid. Locally, people believed Medicaid was akin to socialism, which was akin to communism, which was akin to...well, you get the picture.
Rather than participate in the federal program, Arizona's counties assumed responsibility for the healthcare of indigents. Treating the poor pushed all of the counties to the brink of bankruptcy. Faced with insolvency, the state, in 1982, created the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which allowed the state's medical establishment to tap into federal healthcare dollars.
By refusing to call our plan Medicaid," we were able to join Medicaid, take federal tax dollars for healthcare and still claim that Medicaid was a communist plot.
If you are on welfare or permanently disabled, federal tax dollars now cover your medical problems.
²But the ÔMedically Needy and the Medically Indigent" are not covered. These people fall between the cracks and the state of Arizona has paid for their healthcare.
²Who are these people?
²According to Dr. Tamsky, the 23,000- plus people in Maricopa County in this group are the homeless, the working poor and people who are chronically ill and cannot work. More recently, they are people who've been laid off in the recession.
²If you work, but are not covered by health insurance, it is very easy to have an illness that strips you of everything.
²Let's say you make $20,000 a year and an uninsured motorist smacks into you, leaving you with a $17,000 hospital bill. You fit into the Medically Needy and Medically Indigent" category.
If you are someone like George Duncan, you are on Governor Symington's hit list.
I met Duncan the morning after St. Patrick's Day, when he arrived in his yellow cab to take me to the office. Wary of my own driving, I'd abandoned my car during the holiday celebration the night before. After working his entire life on the railroad, Duncan was laid off and replaced by a computer. By driving a cab from five in the morning until five in the evening, he is able to keep a roof over his head and feed his wife and three children. The 62-year-old Duncan is not able to afford health insurance for his family.
Recently one of his daughters dislocated a finger. Less than an hour of medical attention cost him $300, which he paid out of his own pocket.
But Duncan doesn't know what he'd do if his family actually had a medical emergency. He says he already works 12 hours a day, six days a week. He doesn't know if he can work any harder.
The problem with the George Duncans of this world is that they didn't learn any lessons from the go-go Eighties. They didn't study the successes of people like J. Fife Symington III.
While sitting on the board of Southwest Savings and Loan, Symington convinced the bank to grant him the single-largest loan in the institution's history for construction of the EsplanadeÏwhich promptly defaulted on the note, plunging the S&L into bankruptcy.
With a total investment of $400 in the Esplanade project, Symington paid himself $5 million in fees out of the S&L loan. It goes without saying that the Symingtons can afford health insurance while George Duncan, who drives a cab 72 hours a week, cannot.
Last week the Arizona State Legislature passed a budget that balanced the state's ledgers. It did not include Symington's $80 million tax-refund program.
The governor refused to sign the budget bill. Symington said he wants the statehouse to go back to the drawing boards and slash $60 million in tax cuts out of the budget.
Senate president Pete Rios told the governor last week that he would not undo healthcare for the working poor.
Who will blink?
You will have to wait to see if Fife's plan to savage the Medically Needy and the Medically Indigent" is resurrected; you will have to wait to see if anyone suggests that the way to hit these numbers is to screw the George Duncans of Arizona.
You will have to wait to see if you get your case of beer and a handful of lottery tickets.
THE WINDMILLS OF JACK LEVINE THIS LAWYER... v4-01-92