LB - Lamb Auto 0726 Chevy Credit

Home | Classifieds | Place Ad | Public Notices | Galleries | Kudos | Obits | Real Estate | Subscriber Services | Villager | Health Directory | Contact Us
The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : state September 26, 2016

6/20/2013 8:18:00 AM
Referendum petitions filed to overturn Medicaid expansion

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Foes of Medicaid expansion in Arizona filed paperwork Wednesday to give voters the last word.

The referendum drive seeks repeal of the provisions of legislation signed Monday by Gov. Jan Brewer to increase the eligibility for free health care to 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- 138 percent when adjusted for certain expenses. Arizona law now covers everyone up to the federal poverty level, about $19,530 for a family of three, though there have been exceptions due to budget problems.

It also seeks to repeal the part of the law which gives the director of the state's Medicaid program the power to levy what amounts to a tax on hospitals to fund Arizona's $240 million share of the expansion bill. The federal government would kick in $1.6 billion if the state goes along.

Backers have to collect 86,405 names before Sept. 12 to put the measure on the 2014 general election ballot.

Just getting enough valid signatures would be a partial victory. That is because a successful petition drive prevents Arizona from implementing Medicaid expansion unless and until voters give their approval. That would kill the anticipated Jan. 1 start date.

It may not get that far.

Jaime Molera, who is heading the Restoring Arizona committee that backs expansion, said attorneys are reviewing the petitions. He says a legal challenge is possible, contending that Medicaid expansion is not subject to referendum and voter veto.

That is based on the contention that the measure -- and specifically the hospital levy -- funds not only adding 300,000 to the rolls of the state's Medicaid program but also provides the cash necessary to ensure continued coverage beyond the end of the year for 63,000 childless adults. That is because the federal funds to pay for care for these people are contingent on Arizona expanding its eligibility.

Molera pointed out that the Arizona Constitution specifically prohibits public review of laws "for the support and maintenance of the departments of state government and state institutions.'

But former state Sen. Frank Antenori, one of the organizers of the referendum, said he is not concerned. He said the language has been reviewed by attorneys and should survive any legal challenge.

If the measure does go to the ballot it will finally put to the test Brewer's contention that the majority of Arizonans support Medicaid expansion.

The expansion is being financed by a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. While better-known provisions include a requirement for individuals to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty, it also provides general financial incentives to states that agree to expand their own Medicaid programs to that 138 percent level.

Brewer said she was a foe of the law, even joining with other states. But once it was enacted -- and once the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the key sections -- the governor said she had to deal with the fiscal reality.

"Do the math,' she said, saying that a $240 million state investment, paid for by hospitals, draws down $1.6 billion in federal dollars. Potentially more significant, Brewer said more people with health insurance means fewer patients showing up at hospitals for care and then being unable to pay.

But Antenori said the whole premise is based on the assumption that the federal government, running a deficit, will live up to its end of the bargain. He predicts a default.

"The state will be forced to try to find the funding to continue this,' he said, saying Arizona doesn't have that kind of money. "They're going to bankrupt the state or they're going to raise taxes.'

Brewer has touted a "circuit breaker' provision in the law. It says the expanded program goes away, automatically, if federal funding drops below 80 percent of the cost.

Antenori, however, said he doubts lawmakers will have the political will to suddenly halt care for 300,000 or more Arizonans.

Molera said if a bid to void the referendum fails, his group is prepared to fight it at the ballot. And part of that effort will be to marginalize those who oppose the expansion.

"I just think we need to make our case that this is an extreme minority group,' he said. "They're pushed by an extreme agenda that, at the end of the day, I don't think people are going to want to support.'

But Tucsonan Christine Bauserman, who is chairing the campaign, said she has had no shortage of people willing to circulate petitions. Many of them, she said, are Republican precinct committeemen who are angered with Brewer for forming an alliance with Democrats who provided the majority of the votes for Medicaid expansion.

The referendum is only one of the potential hurdles facing Medicaid expansion on Jan. 1.

Attorneys for the Goldwater Institute are exploring a lawsuit of their own. That is based on a constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate for any tax increase or any measure which results in a net increase in state revenues. Medicaid expansion did not get that margin.

Brewer contends that what the hospitals will pay is not a tax but an "assessment,' with the amount determined ultimately by Tom Betlach, director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program.

That, however, does not resolve the issue. There also is the legal question of whether giving a state agency director the power to raise $240 million a year in any fashion he wants from the hospitals is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.

Filing of that lawsuit, though, is likely to await the fate of the referendum drive and the outcome of any legal challenges.

ICT - Taylor Waste

    Most Viewed     Recently Commented
•   Armed Cornville man confronts burglar; suspect begs homeowner not to shoot (4268 views)

•   Young BB-gun car shooter sentenced (2513 views)

•   LeMain Development stirs up controversy over limited parking, balconies, building height (2075 views)

•   Colorado Springs mayor urges Arizonans to vote No on legalized marijuana (1892 views)

•   Court Docket Sept. 22, 2016 (1838 views)

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2013
Article comment by: Weasel Alert!

Governor Brewer is still trying to imply that the states lost their challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. This is not true.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the bill's requirement that the states expand Medicaid or lose federal funding for existing Medicaid programs. The Governor is equivocating the fed's refusal to reinstate funding for some 63,000 childless adults Arizona already cut entirely for budgetary reasons during the recession with the "key provisions" the Supreme Court ruled against.

If fact, Arizona could probably sue for reinstatement of the 63,000 on the grounds they were on the roles when the Supreme Court made its decision. I wouldn't. It's not up to the feds to cover a decision Arizona made on its own. But I'm not a sue-happy attorney general.

Article Comment Submission Form
Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comments are limited to Facebook character limits. In order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit excessive comment entries.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

HSE - We want to hear from you
Find more about Weather in Cottonwood, AZ
Click for weather forecast

Submission Links
 •  Submit your feedback about our site

Find It Features Blogs Celebrate Submit Extras Other Publications Local Listings
Classifieds | Place Ad | Galleries | Kudos | Real Estate | Subscriber Services | e-News | RSS | Site Map | Find Verde Jobs | Contact Us
LB - Lamb Auto 0727 Chevy Commercial E

© Copyright 2016 Western News&Info, Inc.® The Verde Independent is the information source for Cottonwood and Verde Valley area communities in Northern Arizona. Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Western News&Info, Inc.® Verde News Online is a service of WNI. By using the Site, ®, you agree to abide and be bound by the Site's terms of use and Privacy Policy, which prohibit commercial use of any information on the Site. Click here to submit your questions, comments or suggestions. Verde News Online is a proud publication of Western News&Info Inc.® All Rights Reserved.

Software © 1998-2016 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved