Governor's decision on Medicaid expansion expected soon - WNEM TV 5

Governor's decision on Medicaid expansion expected soon

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We may be days away from a major announcement that will impact Arizona for years to come.

Gov. Jan Brewer is considering whether Arizona should opt in and expand the state's Medicaid program under the federal healthcare overhaul.

A number of Arizona healthcare officials have said that expanding the state's Medicaid program will not only provide health coverage to more than 300,000 Arizonans, it will also pour billions of dollars into the state economy, create jobs and reduce premiums for businesses.

Several state lawmakers have argued that expanding Arizona's Health Care Cost Containment System would be too expensive.

The latest data shows the AHCCCS expansion would cost Arizona $1.5 billion from 2014 to 2017.

But in return, the federal government would give Arizona around $7.9 billion back in matching funds.

Jim Gillcoatt is one of the thousands of Arizonans who would benefit from AHCCCS expansion.

The Valley dad was diagnosed with throat cancer during a routine physical.

"You kind of lose your will to live, to be honest with you," said Gillcoatt. "It takes it out of you. The fatigue is crushing."

Gillcoatt, 50, is a Phoenix nurse who told CBS5 that he always had a good job and always had health insurance.

But shortly after his first surgery Gillcoatt was unable to work and he lost his health coverage.

The father of five then applied for state assistance through AHCCCS, but was denied.

"I felt a lot of shame and guilt that I know I should be doing better, doing more, but I couldn't help it," Gillcoatt said.

Dr. Randy Oppenheimer is a head and neck surgeon, who said there are thousands of patients in Arizona just like Gillcoatt, battling a life and death disease with no health insurance.

But the Valley surgeon insists that it doesn't have to be that way.

Oppenheimer has teamed up with other healthcare officials to try and convince Brewer to expand the state's Medicaid program under the federal government's Affordable Care Act.

"If you see these patients early and you treat them early then they get a good cure," said Oppenheimer. "They go back to work and they can contribute to the workforce."

Oppenheimer has created a 10-minute documentary to address the problems with Arizona's healthcare system.

It can be seen at

"I think people want to be out there and be productive," said Gillcoatt.

The governor has not yet made a decision on whether Arizona will opt in and expand the state's AHCCCS program. A spokesperson said she's studying all sides of the issue and is determined to do what's best for the state.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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