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home : latest news : state April 30, 2016

5/21/2013 1:34:00 PM
Medicaid stalemate continues at state capitol

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Saying the Senate vote is not enough, Gov. Jan Brewer won't lift her vow to veto other legislation until lawmakers make more progress on her plan to expand Medicaid.

"It takes more than one chamber to pass a bill,' gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said Monday following last week's 18-12 vote for her proposal. That dumped the issue in the lap of the House of Representatives.

"So we continue to work with the House,' Benson said. "Until further notice, the moratorium remains in effect.'

But the chances of quick resolution appear dim.

At this point, House Speaker Andy Tobin has not scheduled any hearings on the proposal to add 300,000 or more to the rolls of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. There already are about 1.3 million getting care through the state's Medicaid program.

Potentially more significant, Tobin has a plan of his own: He wants to take the issue to the ballot. And even House GOP supporters of what the governor wants say they will give him time to see if he can line up the votes.

In the interim, that leaves much of the legislative process in limbo, as much of what remains on lawmakers' plates this session consists of items ready to send to Brewer after a final vote. That likely means no vote -- and no end to the session -- until after Memorial Day.

Benson said it makes no sense for his boss, on the heels of last week's Senate vote, to let up the pressure now. Anyway, he said it's not like Brewer has held up the entire legislative process to get her way.

"The governor has acted on more than 200 bills this session,' he said. "She has signed many of their priorities.'

But Benson sidestepped questions of whether Brewer's threat to veto other legislation would remain if the version passed by the House contains a requirement to send the issue to the ballot, something his boss does not want. Benson said he won't negotiate the issue in the media.

"The governor will let them know once she is ready to start receiving bills again,' he said. "For the time being the moratorium remains in place.'

Thursday's Senate vote took place after five dissident Republicans united with the 13 Democrats to override the objections of Senate President Andy Biggs and the majority of the 17-member GOP caucus.

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, who is carrying Brewer's proposal in the House, said she thinks there are enough Republicans who like Brewer's plan to do the same thing in the House, working with the 24 Democrats there.

But Carter told Capitol Media Services she's not going to push ahead with that, at least as this point. Instead, she will give Tobin time to see if he can line up the votes for his alternative.

She said that's only fair, given that Tobin appears to want Medicaid expansion -- albeit with a public vote -- and took the time to craft something else. She said that is in sharp comparison with the position taken by Senate President Andy Biggs, a position that essentially forced dissident Republicans to unite with Democrats to roll over him.

"The same conversations (to roll Biggs) that happened in the Senate are not happening in the House,' Carter said.

"The Senate president approached this from an entirely different position, basically with a 'hell no, we won't go' under any circumstance,' she continued. "And the speaker has put a plan out.'

Both what Brewer and Tobin want would tap into the federal Affordable Care Act to expand coverage to everyone up to an adjusted figure of 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The current state Medicaid program includes most individuals below the federal poverty level, about $19,530 a year for a family of three.

Arizona would impose a tax on hospitals of about $240 million a year. But that would bring in about $1.6 billion in federal dollars to provide care for more people.

The key dispute between Brewer and Tobin remains that public vote.

One reason supporters do not want a vote is the fear that the campaign will be less about the specific plan to expand Medicaid and instead become a referendum, financed by out-of-state interests, on what people think of Obamacare. But Tobin said he's not worried.

"I think they're smarter than this,' he said.

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

Let's see...we're going to tax hospitals in order to pay hospitals for the patients they're losing money on, and the loss in managing this movement of money will be made up with borrowed money.

Yeah, let's vote.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

No, we certainly wouldn't want Arizonans voting on taxing hospitals, now would we? Too many might realize that doesn't make any sense at all. Too many might start looking for the catch.

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