Governor Brewer and Republican lawmakers continue to spar over Medicaid expansion proposal

April 25, 2013

Republicans at the state capitol are continuing their fight against Governor Brewer’s proposal to expand Medicaid coverage under the Obama Administration’s health care law. They staged a small rally at the state capitol Thursday.

They are concerned the state could lose millions of dollars if it signs up for President Obama’s health care plan. Fourteen other states have rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled portions of the Affordable Health Care Program meet constitutional muster.   

Governor Brewer surprised most everyone when she announced in her State of the State speech that Arizona should move to expand Medicaid coverage under the new federal law.  But, some Republican state lawmakers say it is too expensive, it will not improve the quality of patient care and it may send tax dollars to abortion providers.

Republican State Senator Kelli Ward is a doctor and said there is no guarantee that Arizona will avoid a fiscal crisis if it accepts the millions of dollars in federal start-up funds to expand Medicaid coverage.

“These federal funds may sound like a gift but it’s a gift of a baby elephant. When you get a baby elephant and the federal government tells that they’ll pay for it for the first three years, remember that when that elephant is grown up in three years it’s going to be Arizona’s responsibility," Ward said.

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs said he would like to see the state delay action on the bill until next year or set up some sort of state health care program.

Meanwhile, Brewer is putting more pressure on state lawmakers to approver her Medicaid legislation. The Republican governor has been at odds with members of her own party over Medicaid for the past few months, and the issue is holding up work on the state budget.

Brewer’s office released a letter Thursday addressed to Republican state legislative leaders. It said Arizona will lose federal funds if the state does not reverse a freeze on health care coverage for 63,000 low-income childless adults that the governor announced last year to cut costs.

Brewer’s spokesman Matt Benson said it is more evidence that lawmakers need to approve Medicaid expansion now.

"What that means is that if the state continues to freeze coverage for these 63,000 Arizonans that otherwise would lose coverage at the end of the year, we would have to dip into state coffers to do it.  The cost is $850 million over three years," Benson said.

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