Brewer Endorses Medicaid Expansion Under Health Overhaul
By Jim Malewitz, Staff Writer
Governor Jan Brewer will push to expand Arizona’s Medicaid program after all, she has announced, surprising many who have watched her crusade against that and other key components of President Obama’s health care overhaul.
Brewer delivered that news Monday (January 14), going off-script in her state of the state address. Despite her stern opposition to the health law, Brewer said, it’s here to stay, and opting out of Medicaid expansion, as allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court, would deprive Arizona of important federal dollars.
“Saying ‘no’ to this plan would not save these federal dollars from being spent or direct them to deficit reduction,” she said. “No, Arizona’s tax dollars would simply be passed to another state.”
Governors in nearby California, Nevada and New Mexico are among those that plan to expand Medicaid under the health law, to include people earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Ten Republican governors have decided not to expand rolls.
Arizona would stand to receive almost $1.6 billion in its first year, according to Brewer’s office. The expansion would add 240,000 people to the state’s Medicaid rolls.
“With this move, we will secure a federal revenue stream to cover the costs of the uninsured who already show up in our doctor’s offices and emergency rooms,” Brewer said. “With the realities facing us, taking advantage of this federal assistance is the strategic way to reduce Medicaid pressure on the State budget.”
Brewer’s plan, however, would carry what she calls a “circuit breaker,” which would automatically roll back enrollment if the federal government cuts reimbursement rates for childless Arizonans below 80 percent.
The decision, which requires legislative approval, isn’t likely to be popular among some Arizona Republicans, who have joined her in opposing other aspects of the insurance overhaul.
Arizona is still one of the 25 states that have opted not to set up its own insurance exchange, choosing instead to allow the federal government to set up the state’s online marketplace where uninsured people and companies can pick their providers.