I am honored to be able to address over 18,000 Arizona physicians in the inaugural edition of AZ Physician. As we celebrate this inaugural edition, another inaugural is occurring in Washington DC – the inauguration of a new President. While a new President has the opportunity to affect many policy areas, there is no area likely to be more greatly impacted than healthcare.
It is no secret that I have long been a critic of Obamacare. When Obamacare was first passed, the American people were told they would “find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices.” Unfortunately, these promises have proven false.
I have long said that Obamacare is a rolling disaster and the volatility in the Arizona insurance market has only strengthened that belief. In 2017, Arizonans shopping for coverage on the federal marketplace in Arizona will have a single choice for coverage and will see an average premium increase of 49%. Additionally, insurers, seeking to protect themselves from further losses, have engaged one of the few options left open to them: narrowing their networks. As you well know, narrow networks limit the ability of consumers to visit the doctor of their choice no matter how sick they may be.
But even as we point out the very real flaws of Obamacare, it is important to note that there were flaws in the system we had before. We have all heard the stories of individuals who were unable to find coverage due to a pre-existing condition. These individuals need access to health insurance, and for them, the thought of repeal and returning to a time when they could not buy coverage at all is very scary. This is why any discussion of repeal, must also include discussion of what replace will look like.
It is my hope that Congress and the President will put together a replace plan that truly brings choice and competition back to the healthcare market while putting in place protections to ensure that all individuals have the ability to obtain coverage. I will continue to work with our Congressional delegation to provide them all necessary information on the impact of proposed replace plans on Arizona.
But while we wait for action from Washington on Obamacare, we are taking action of our own here in Arizona. One of the most common complaints that I have heard from healthcare community relates to the length of time it takes to license a doctor. We have taken two important steps to address that. First, we have provided the Arizona Medical Board with assistance from our lean government team to assist in improving their all overall process and shorten the time frame from application to licensure. Second, I signed legislation in May allowing Arizona to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. This compact, which includes 18 states, will provide qualified physicians in good standing in another compact state with a new and faster path to licensure in Arizona.
We have also made strides in other areas including expanding our physician loan repayment program, re-opening the KidsCare program to ensure that children in low-income families have access to affordable healthcare, increased funding for graduate medical education, and averting Medicaid provider cuts that would have placed additional pressures on the physician community.
My administration has also been focused on fighting the scourge of opiate abuse. Last year, Arizona was ranked as the 9th highest state for drug overdose deaths. That is a top 10 list we don’t want to be on, and my administration is committed to doing everything we can to address the issue. So far we have made Naloxone more widely available to help save the lives of those already suffering from addiction, removed pre-authorization requirements at AHCCCS for new forms of medication assisted treatment including Vivitrol, and requiring a check of the CSPMP before prescribing opiates in most circumstances. As we move to implement the new CSPMP requirement, we are committed to ensuring that the system is as user-friendly as possible for doctors and we are currently in the process of implementing several upgrades.
Additionally, we secured a waiver from the federal government to modernize our Medicaid program. This new AHCCCS waiver is focused on able-bodied adults and is designed to help them prepare to re-enter the commercial market by rewarding healthy behaviors, engaging them in work search activities, and helping them build a personal safety-net which will be there for them to help cover co-pays and premiums after they have left the Medicaid program.
Each and every one of the physicians in Arizona plays an extremely important role in our state. You keep us healthy and treat us when we are ill. I am extremely proud to have world class medical facilities such as Mayo Clinic, Barrows Neurological, Banner University Medical Center, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and many others right here in Arizona. None of those facilities could operate without world class physicians. We value your work and look forward to working with your professional associations as we move forward to ensure that Arizona is a welcoming place for our growing medical community.