Because of the significant positive impact on the people we serve, Vincentians, together with members of many other organizations, repeatedly lobbied the legislators for Medicaid Expansion, since last January.
Several times, Vincentians visited the legislature in Phoenix with members of the Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN). Then, in early May, they participated in a large Assembly with Governor Brewer, organized by IAN, with 800 people attending. Clergy, both Catholic and of others denominations lead the assembly; ordinary citizens shared stories of poverty and of successful change; the State officials present were all given the chance to comment.
Governor Brewer, Senate Majority leader John McComish, and other legislators that were present committed to support Medicaid expansion and to restore funding of public education.
On May 16, we finally started to see some action, when the State Senate passed an amended budget that included the restoration of medical insurance for the poor (AHCCCS) and its expansion to people earning up to 133% of the poverty line. John McComish, the Senate Majority Leader, kept his commitment and led the bipartisan effort by amending the budget on the floor and holding off attempts to kill the amendment, in a debate that lasted nearly 12 hours.
With the House refusing to take-up the bill and after all negotiation had failed, on the evening of Tuesday, June 11, Governor Brewer decided to bring the matter to a close by calling a Special Session of the Legislature with the specific purpose of getting the 2013-2014 State budget approved, inclusive of Medicaid Expansion.
On June 12, shortly after midnight, the House of Representatives voted and approved the $8.8 billion budget inclusive of the expansion, with the support of 33 members out of 60, from both parties. The Senate re-approved, by the following afternoon, the budget and the expansion, because of some changes from the previous version. After that, the special session ordered by Governor Brewer ended.
Medicaid expansion is a reasonable proposal expected not only to help about 300,000 vulnerable people with their health care needs, but also to inject $1.5 billion into the state every year, to help hospitals by decreasing uncompensated treatments and to create about 15,000 jobs.
In spite of these undeniable benefits, the dissenting legislators are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would revoke Medicaid expansion. In case of referendum, we will likely see, once again, out-of-State powerful interests contributing large amounts of money, funding confusing and misleading ads to convince citizens to vote against the Common Good. We will need to remain vigilant to protect the expansion of Medicaid that we worked so hard to obtain.