Governor’s Health Care Initiative

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19-thousand kids would be enrolled in Kids Care and hospitals would get help covering costs of care for the uninsured if the federal government approves a plan to allow Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Maricopa Integrated Health System, and the University of Arizona Health Network to use their own money to draw down federal matching funds. Betsey Bayless, President and CEO of MIHS, discusses the details of the proposal.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The mother of a missing 5-year-old Glendale girl has been released from jail. Jerice Hunter, the mother of Jahessye Shockley, was released because prosecutors failed to file charges on time. A spokesman for the Maricopa County attorney's office says they're waiting for more information from police. Hunter was booked last week on a felony child abuse charge. Governor Brewer today announced a plan to get more federal healthcare dollars flowing into Arizona at no cost to the state. Three health care organizations have agreed to put up a combined $113 million a year, for two years, in order to secure twice that amount in federal matching funds. The Maricopa Integrated Health System, the University of Arizona Health Network and Phoenix Children's Hospital are participating in the plan. It's designed to help them cover uncompensated costs of caring for the uninsured and to make improvements to their own healthcare delivery systems. Some of the money will also be set aside to provide KidsCare health insurance coverage to 19,000 children over the two-year life of the program. At today's press conference, Bob Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children's Hospital, explained where the seed money will come from.

Bob Meyer: The answer to, "Where does the money come from?" is it comes from the individual institutions, we will put up our operating dollars, which is then matched with federal dollars and returned to us as part of the safety net care pool.

Ted Simons: Here with more on this healthcare partnership is Betsey Bayless, president and CEO of the Maricopa Integrated Health System. Thanks for joining us.

Betsey Bayles: Thank you for having me tonight.

Ted Simons: Did I get that right? Give us more information on this plan. How it works and the logistics and such.

Betsey Bayles: AHCCCS has been cut a number times in the past few years and there's been two rate cuts, there has been the whole issue with people covered under prop 204 and those people were eliminated from AHCCCS and so last legislative session as they were again taking more cuts on AHCCCS, the senate and house passed S.B. 1357 and the purpose of 1357 was to enable healthcare systems using government money to go out and to make a match with federal funds and draw down money into their systems to take care of some of these people who had lost their health insurance. So we needed to come up with some creative ways to address the situation, so that we could cover more people. We came up with a safety net care pool, and in this safety net care pool, a healthcare system that had a government partner could put up a match and draw down funds from the federal government. That's assuming that the federal government approves this. They've seen it, repeatedly, and at this point, we're cautiously optimistic this will be approved.

Ted Simons: Talk to us about how your group will be involved. We have the children's hospital and the U of A group as well. Individually, same amount or different amounts of money thrown in, how does it work.

Betsey Bayles: My system, Maricopa Healthcare System, is a government, so we would put up our own governmental match to the federal government. We also have a much bigger investment in uncompensated care, so our match is about $51 million, and the match of the Phoenix Children's Hospital and the UA healthcare is considerably smaller. But we have in our system, $90 million of uncompensated care and as people come off of AHCCCS, and we've got 62% of our patients are AHCCCS, that dwindles down and people come off, the amount of that uncompensated care goes up.

Ted Simons: A two-to-one match here. How much does that help?

Betsey Bayles: Well, it would certainly help us. That would result in $155 million to us. And we put up 51 and we get about $155 million if this is all approved and right now, we're facing these increasing number of people with no insurance whatsoever coming to all parts of our system, especially our emergency room and we've been losing $5 million a month.

Ted Simons: Yeah, as we get 44,000 childless adults lost AHCCCS coverage since jewel. You're expecting 100,000 by July of next year. KidsCare is affected by this. Is this affected by this through choice or did the feds say, "This will work better for us if you get KidsCare involved?"

Betsey Bayles: That's it. There was encouragement on the part of the federal government for those of us participating proposing this program to include KidsCare, because KidsCare has been frozen since December 2009.

Ted Simons: Quickly, describe KidsCare.

Betsey Bayles: KidsCare is healthcare for children. And they come through the AHCCCS system, they're put into different health plans and they get healthcare. In December 2009, that was frozen. And so a great many of the children have gone off KidsCare. It's been cut to about 15,000 children. And I know the federal government was very unhappy about that. And they're very concerned about the children. So they encouraged us to include that. We can take a hint. We came back, and included that on our proposal and each one of these three group, Maricopa, Phoenix Children's and UA Healthcare, we each have a match for KidsCare.

Ted Simons: Ok. Some are looking at this and saying, "Good for you and good for UA Health Systems and Phoenix's Children Hospital. But there are still a lot who are in great need. Can there be a way to make it or something else more universal?

Betsey Bayles: Well, other healthcare systems can find government partners if they like. But they would have to put up the match to draw down the funds. Now, that has not happened, at least not until to this moment.

Ted Simons: What about things like taxing districts? We keep hearing that could be an idea. Compare this with that.

Betsey Bayles: Well, this is a bridge to 2014. Now, in 2014, there is on the horizon a federal healthcare reform. We don't know if that's really going to happen or exactly what it will look like. But this is a two-year program that would bridge a good part of our uncompensated population to 2014. Now, if there's no federal healthcare reform, you probably will see some other ideas come forward, like taxing districts and so forth. My system operates under a governmental district and there's a small amount of tax that we're allowed to levy. And you may see different ideas about this in the future, but my guess would be that there would be an effort to wait and see what happens in 2014.

Ted Simons: Even the idea of the bed tax. That particular assessment? That's getting a lot of attention and notice. And it sounds like it's still rumbling out there. Is that something that competes with something like this? Complements or two different tracts altogether?

Betsey Bayles: It's two different tracts. There's a lot of talk about the bed tax. In reality, it's a provider assessment. Because the healthcare systems would voluntarily put up money in order to have it matched by the federal government and to draw down those federal dollars. But it's been talked about as a tax. That puts the legislature into a higher qualifying vote than if it were something else. So that did not go last year. My belief is that there will be an effort once again to introduce it into the legislature. Any time there's a tax on a bill, though, it takes a lot more votes.

Ted Simons: It sure does. Quickly, timetable for all of this? When do the feds say okay and then things start rolling?

Betsey Bayles: The feds have been looking at this for months, and we did everything we were asked, now, it would appear that the center for Medicare and Medicaid is okay with this. And then they have to go to the congressional budget office and a variety of other places. So we're told that it's probably not going to be until January or February. Meanwhile, October 1st, we had another cut and so there's a lot of anxiety to get this done, so we're hopeful that at least by January. That it will done.

Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Betsey Bayles: Thanks so much.

Betsey Bayless:President and CEO, Maricopa Integrated Health System;

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