Arizona Senate says no to Medicare for All

Medicare for All protest
The Arizona Senate on Tuesday, March 3, approved a resolution opposing "Medicare for All." In this 2019 file photo, protesters supporting the program hold a rally in Washington, DC. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

A resolution that says the Arizona legislature is in “strong opposition” to a single-payer Medicare for All program passed the Senate on Tuesday. 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1047, which next goes to the House, also asks Arizona’s Congressional delegation to vote against any measures that would increase taxes, eliminate patient choice and compromise the quality of healthcare in the state. 

The resolution led to a debate on the Senate floor between senators who say a single-payer system is the solution to a broken healthcare system and opponents who emphasize the importance of privatized healthcare. 

Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, voted against the resolution and said he doesn’t understand why the legislature would oppose expanding healthcare access to everyone, noting that his constituents are not able to afford their premiums, copays and deductibles. 

“They might not be waiting where you can see them but every time you see one of those GoFundMe accounts asking for help with healthcare, that is your constituent without access to healthcare,” Mendez said. 

A single-payer national health care system would expand Medicare insurance to all Americans, ending the need for private health insurance and premiums. But critics of Medicare for All argue that it would lead to an increase in taxes and would end patient choice. 

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, agreed that the healthcare system is broken but blamed it on an increase in “government interference” over the years. 

Allen, 72, said she remembers a time when she was able to go to the doctor for 10 or 15 dollars, but said the deterioration of a free market has led to the issues that the healthcare system is facing today. 

“What has happened is now people have to have insurance or they can’t possibly survive,” Allen said. “It is because over all these years there is more and more government interference — it comes from all directions … it is no longer a free market.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an advocacy group for health insurance companies, sided with the resolution against a Medicare for All program, saying that it would upset people who love their private insurance. 

AHIP lobbyist Marc Osborne said the program would lead to 16,000 health insurance employees losing their jobs in Arizona, force 51 percent of the state’s population to give up their private insurance, and would result in the state losing $150 million to $300 million in premium tax losses per year. 

“It’s going to have a very dramatic impact,” Osborne told the Senate Finances Committee last month. “Choice is a good thing and it’s important for the Arizona Legislature to stamp their opinion about the national debate.”

But a coordinator for Arizona Medicare for All Coalition said their studies show the single-payer program would save the state a billion dollars a year. 

Kenneth Kenegos, a retired nurse and coordinator for the Coalition, said that the resolution is too one-sided and doesn’t consider the other side of the Medicare for All argument. 

“What we have here is we’re going to have to make a choice between health care or wealth care,” Kenegos said. “Are we going to care for the wealth of the insurance industry and the tremendous amount of waste that we have in our health care?”

The resolution passed the Arizona Senate on a 17-13 vote. The Republican-controlled House is also expected to pass the measure.