Brewer wants Arizona's Medicaid obligation cut
Gov. Jan Brewer is asking Congress to let Arizona out of its obligation to fund health care for 300,000 low-income Arizonans, given that temporary relief from the federal government appears unlikely.
In a letter to members of Arizona's congressional delegation, the Republican governor on Wednesday lamented the demise last week of a bill that would extend Medicaid assistance to the states through June 2011.
"(I)t has become clear that Congress does not have the will to assist states in addressing the very problem that it created," she wrote.
At issue is $400 million in federal dollars intended to shore up Arizona's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Lawmakers and Brewer built the funds into the state's fiscal 2011 budget, which begins today. Without the money, the budget not only falls out of balance, but Arizona stands to lose more than $7 billion in Medicaid assistance for various programs.
That's because the new federal health-care law requires Arizona to maintain programs such as AHCCCS at current levels, which in Arizona's case covers people whose income is up to 100 percent of the federal-poverty level. Lawmakers and Brewer approved a plan that cuts the eligibility threshold to about 33 percent but delayed it until July 2011 in the belief that the $400 million in federal aid would come through.
Unless Congress revives the Medicaid-assistance provisions, Brewer said, the "only real alternative" is to drop that "maintenance of effort" requirement, or at least relax it.
Last month, when she met with President Barack Obama, Brewer made a plea for the extended dollars. But hopes for the funding waned when Republicans in the U.S. Senate, joined by one Democrat, last week voted against the measure, citing concern about inflating the nation's debt.
Brewer said that while she is sympathetic to debt concerns, states have relied on the Medicaid extension to help them through the coming budget year.
Brewer's letter drew condemnation from Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who served on a federal health-care advisory panel.
"This is sadly another typical move by Governor Brewer in her series of ceaseless attempts to eliminate health care for children and working families," Sinema said.
But the governor's letter drew praise from Rep. Rick Murphy, R-Peoria, who said the state can't afford to cover health-care costs for 20 percent of its population, especially given the ongoing budget crisis. The Arizona Republic SouceAP SourceSee, Republicans? When you set out to screw over everyone, you screw your fellow Republicans too! That aside, this is tragic- yet another case of the people with the least means to help themselves being the first thrown under the bus. Ugh. Having worked in a medical office for years and knowing the sorts of stories people have when they're forced to continually reapply for Medicaid, I can tell you thi
s is going to be pretty shitty- both for patients and physicians. Sick people need to be cared for, whether or not doctors are getting paid.
So I guess stay far away from AZ unless you're rich and white. In which case you will sunburn to death or something.
(First post! Mods, hope I did it right.)