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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona’s Medicaid numbers highlight Legislature’s ineptitude

    Arizona’s latest Medicaid numbers are in, and to the chagrin of many conservative, budgetary hawks, taxpayers are footing the bill for 53 percent of the state’s births.

    According to cost estimates compiled by The Arizona Republic, the share of births paid for by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System has increased on an annual basis and is now costing the state more than $200 million.

    Despite the Legislature’s aggressive efforts to decrease spending on public services, the ballooning cost of Medicaid-covered births has surprisingly gone unnoticed. In fact, many of the state’s legislators were caught unaware when the program’s exorbitant price-tag was pointed out to them.

    “I had no idea that the number had grown to that ridiculous level,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in an interview with the Republic. “There clearly is a serious cultural problem in this state and this nation if the numbers have risen.”

    What’s amazing is that a $200 million program was overlooked by the same Legislature that took pride in capping AHCCCS payments to hospitals and freezing Medicaid enrollment. Just two years ago, in the state’s haste to slash entitlement benefits, two Medicaid recipients were denied potentially life-saving organ transplants and died as a result.

    The fact that, for years, the millions of taxpayer dollars used to fund Medicaid-covered births went unaccounted for is both a blessing and a testament to the ineptitude of those charged with handling the state’s finances.

    True to form, the conservative politicians responsible for this oversight were quick to place blame on the depraved, low-income mothers who are having children out of wedlock.

    “It’s a sad commentary that women are choosing through circumstance or whatever reason to go ahead and have sex prior to marriage or to not have a commitment to the other person to get married and take care of this child,” said Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale and chairwoman of the senate public safety and human-services committee, to the Republic.

    In reality, a place where Gray does not reside, the increase in Medicaid-covered births has less to do with feckless, fertile women and more to do with the economy. It’s only natural for people to rely more on public services like Medicaid when they are unable to make ends meet and the job market is less than stellar.

    But Gray’s comments are even more laughable given the fact that her party has done everything in its power to limit the accessibility of safe abortions and birth control. These women have no choice but to give birth now that contraception services have been practically outlawed.

    Conservative doctrine tells mothers that they should carry their child to term irrespective of their financial situation, but once these mothers give birth, they are vilified for receiving the government assistance needed to ensure the health and well-being of their newborn.

    In essence, once the child survives nine months of gestation, its life is no longer worth protecting.

    Such is the state of conservative ideology as it concerns childbirth and socioeconomic status, and like Arizona’s $200 million in Medicaid-covered births, the hypocrisy is likely to go unnoticed.

    — Nyles Kendall is a political science senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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