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AZ Children's Advocates Warn of Dire Consequences of Quick ACA Repeal

Children's advocates in Arizona are calling for a replacement plan before the ACA is repealed. (Bigandt Photography/iStockphoto)
Children's advocates in Arizona are calling for a replacement plan before the ACA is repealed. (Bigandt Photography/iStockphoto)
December 21, 2016

PHOENIX – The risk of child abuse and neglect could rise if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act without immediately replacing it. That's the warning today by a coalition of children's advocates at an event at the State Capitol. The groups point to a recent statement by Governor Doug Ducey that a rushed repeal would mean massive cuts to Medicaid, with up to 600,000 Arizonans losing coverage.

Becky Ruffner, the executive director of the group, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, said it would be a huge setback for families caught up in the foster-care system.

"Without our Medicaid expansion, those parents would not be eligible for any kind of substance-abuse treatment, mental-health counseling, to get back on track and get their children back," she warned. "So, children would be left in foster care for longer periods."

Arizona cares for 17,000 foster children at any given time. President-elect Trump, concerned about premium hikes and the individual insurance mandate, has vowed to repeal the ACA right away but hasn't proposed a specific a plan to replace it. At the Capitol today, groups are pressing Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake to insist on a replacement before any repeal.

Jayne Baker, board chair of Lutheran Social Services in Arizona, said the foster-care system is already under enormous stress and can't sustain large cutbacks.

"The cuts in the services that are essential, it would be horrible for tens of thousands of people," she said. "The parents are suffering, the kids are suffering, and to be given none of the services would be disastrous."

Baker explained that Medicaid's mental-health and drug-treatment services keep parents healthy, and thus, are key to preventing child abuse and neglect.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ