“Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Time and again, the citizens of Arizona have proven that they want a government that actually works. From Proposition 100 that balanced our budget to Medicaid restoration, the voters have stood up for an effective government that takes action to solve problems — one that acts in the public interest and serves the people of this great State.
In each of these challenges, there has been a lot of “small” talk — the same old rhetoric that drives the “do nothing” narrative. It appeals to a small portion of the electorate, but it never seems to grow, because rhetoric is indeed a poor substitute for action. A majority of Arizonans aren’t buying what they’re selling now — no matter how they package up their tired rhetoric.
Once again, voters have the opportunity to act in the public interest, this time by supporting our only public hospital by voting Yes on Proposition 480.
Since before Arizona was even a state, our public hospital was taking care of those most in need in Maricopa County. Today, Maricopa Integrated Health System is providing quality, affordable health care to everyone who enters their doors. MIHS provides level one trauma care for adults and children, the Arizona Burn Center, and clinics in the underserved areas of Maricopa County.
There are countless reasons to support Proposition 480, but there are three key issues that demonstrate why MIHS is a significant part of the solution to our community health care challenges, not part of the problem:
First, treatment for the mentally ill. MIHS is largest provider of help for the seriously mentally ill and the only provider of court ordered mental health evaluations. This year’s resolution of the long-standing Arnold v. Sarn litigation, which challenged the State’s support for the SMI population, is directly tied to our community’s continued support for programs that serve this population. Each day police officers and fire fighters are on the front line of this problem and it’s clear that they need help. Adequate treatment for the mentally ill helps public safety and improves our quality of life. Proposition 480 will help expand and improve treatment for those patients with mental illness.
Second, MIHS is our largest teaching hospital. We have a critical shortage of medical professionals. Maricopa Medical Center is the only teaching hospital and it needs to keep up with our region’s demand. MIHS trains over 400 doctors a year with over 75% of them staying here in Arizona to continue their careers. Ask your doctor or nurse where they received their training, they are very likely to say MIHS. No other provider could pick up that slack.
Finally, the fiscal implications of MIHS on the state budget. As Republic Columnist Bob Robb mentioned in his column on 10/8, as the public hospital, MIHS earns approximately $90 million in federal dollars per year in uncompensated care for the state. The state in turns holds onto approximately $57 million of that money for their general fund purposes and awards the rest to hospitals throughout Arizona to compensate them for uncompensated care provided to those who cannot afford it. Without MIHS, the state’s budget hole would be even deeper.
In addition, MIHS patient population is nearly 90% AHCCCS or charity care. Reimbursement rates for AHCCCS patients are well below that of private insurance. MIHS provides the best care at the lowest possible cost of any health care facility in Maricopa County. There has been a great deal of hospital consolidation over the past few years. Without MIHS to keep costs down, greater consolidation could undoubtedly have the effect of raising the rates and reducing competition for the AHCCCS populations.
Our state and our nation are struggling between the ideological extremes of those who want the government to be in charge of everything and those who fiercely believe that the government should do nothing.
The truth is in the middle. We live in the real world where people get sick, injured, or burned. People are experiencing behavioral health problems and have no place to turn. Maricopa County’s population continues to grow and we don’t have enough doctors and nurses to meet demand. Standing on the sidelines and simply saying no won’t fix these problems.
Is there a cost? Yes. And it is right on the website at www.YESon480.com for all to see. You can see the total financial obligation and how much it’s going to cost you. When you cast your vote on Prop 480, though, the real question you should be asking yourself is, “What is the cost to our community’s quality of life if MIHS doesn’t exist?”
The elected board of the health system is asking for the resources to improve your safety net care hospital for those who most desperately need care. Thank God if you are not one of them, and then “think big” and vote “yes.”
Teddy Roosevelt, the President who is most responsible for our state’s existence, would be proud.
HighGround, Inc. was one of the public advocates for creation of the Maricopa County Special Health Care District in 2003 and continues to work on the District’s behalf. HighGround Inc. is also the General Election consultant on behalf of the YES on 480 Committee.