Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Democratic state lawmakers held a press conference this afternoon to urge Republican legislative leaders to restore cuts made to Arizona's Medicaid program. Democrats say the cuts literally put the lives of about 100 transplant patients in jeopardy. The lawmakers were joined by the head of a national transplant group as they demanded that the cuts made to the Arizona health care cost-containment system be restored. Here to talk about the issue is Democratic Representative David Schapira, who will be the senate Democratic leader in the next session. Good to see you here, thanks for joining us.
David Schapira: Thanks for having me, Ted.
Ted Simons: Why call this press conference? What's going on here?
David Schapira: We really need to put a face on this. We're pulling out all the stops. Since October 1st this issue has been in play, really since last March. It took effect October 1st. We're kind of shocked that the Governor has not done something about this. We thought, although the national media has done a great job of covering this issue, we wanted to bring patients together and talk to the press face to face, so that people understand these are people's lives that are at stake. Here are the people.
Ted Simons: What kinds of transplants are no longer covered? All transplants? Some transplants? What are we talking about here?
David Schapira: Basically some of the ACCCHS coverage for some of these transplants that are vitally needed who are needed for people who – essentially life and death situations, they are not being covered by ACCCHS. We're talking about heart transplants, bone marrow transplants, liver transplants, what they call solid organ transplants are now not being covered by the ACCCHS program. Which amounts to about 90 people had already been approved and now will not receive those life-saving transplants.
Ted Simons: Some say we don’t have the money for it, we have to set limits, we’ve set the limits.
David Schapira: I don't know if there are some. I know of one who is saying we don't have the money for this and that's the Governor. I have not heard public comments from members of the legislature on either side of the aisle saying there isn't money for this, other than they obviously voted to cut this back in March. Even the Goldwater Institute, one of the most fiscally conservative groups in the state, has come out and said there is money for this, there needs to be money for this because this is a vitally important program.
Ted Simons: There is a difference between there needs to be money for this and there is money for this. Where is the money for this?
David Schapira: First of all, the Governor has about $30 million in stimulus money that has yet to be publicly allocated. At this point, we're talking about a $1.4 million cost. If you take the average income of an American citizen, that equals about $7 of their income. I think any of us would be willing to spend $7 of our own money to save these people's lives. Let me just say, out of the $30 million she has in stimulus money to spend, there has to be money in there for this $1.4 million. Otherwise out of a budget that is billions of dollars we can find it.
Ted Simons: Her office says that money is spoken for. That's A. B, this is stimulus money designed to stimulate the economy. Some are saying helping out transplant patients, as noble as that cause might be, is not necessarily spending this money as to what it's designed to do.
David Schapira: There's nothing more stimulative than putting people back to work. Of the four transplant patients there today, all four of them, if they were healthy, would be back to work. People are stimulative to an economy. Let me just say, on the $30 million already being spent, it's a copout. We have done a public records request to get that information, and the Governor's office refuses to give that information. I don't believe a penny of that money has been spent. I want to know what it's been spent on, and so do the taxpayers of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Again, that is a noble cause, but there are other causes out there that need money, other things that have been cut. For example, if you cut police officers, how many lives would they save? How many lives would Fire Department personnel save if they were still on the job? How do you balance that out?
David Schapira: There's direct and indirect. We're talking about direct saving of lives. If we can give these people organ transplants that they were already promised -- one person had a friend already pass away that said they would give the liver to this person. That liver from that friend who died went to somebody else because that coverage disappeared. That is direct saving of lives. As someone who's advocated to protect education funding in the last couple of years, and someone who says education is my number one priority, this is now my number one priority. 98 peoples lives can be saved and we need to do it.
Ted Simons: What are you hearing from Republican lawmakers?
David Schapira: Really very little. They have kind of been running from this issue. No one really wants to be out there publicly on this issue. I'm kind of shocked that the Governor has even commented, given that she's unwilling to do anything about it. The only thing I’ve heard from republican lawmakers is John Kavanagh has admitted that was a mistake and he would like it to be addressed when we come back into session. I'll be dropping a bill to restore this funding when the session starts. I hope it happens before 34 days from now, because people are dying.
Ted Simons: Last question, very quickly, the Governor says there is no money for this. You say --
David Schapira: There is money for this, whether it's in the $30 million for stimulus money, or taxing country club memberships, tax exempt four-inch pipes, there are various other things out there. Even within the ACCCHS system, we had a doctor who has a lot of ACCCHS patients who came out and told us today they have identified things within the ACCCHS system that would make more sense to cut than this transplant coverage. If they are willing to take the hit, then so should we.
Ted Simons: David, thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.
David Schapira: No problem.