Gov. Brewer’s Support for Medicaid Plan Riles Republicans

Monday, 11 Mar 2013 02:24 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is expected Tuesday to endorse a Medicaid expansion bill backed by Democrats, but could have a difficult time convincing members of her own Republican Party to support it.

The governor needs to attract eight of the 17 Republicans in the state Senate to her side to see the measure pass, according to The New York Times. But Republicans long used to seeing the governor fighting against President Barack Obama on everything from Obamacare to immigration don't believe expansion is the best way, as Brewer argues, to stabilize the state’s healthcare system, which is already struggling to care for uninsured patients.

At the moment, Brewer is counting on the Democratic minority in the legislature to help push the measure through. But she also has business leaders on her side who have already begun to run television advertisements promoting the expansion as a way to keep hospitals, particularly in rural areas, running.

The advertising campaign also reminds legislators that backing the plan means honoring the choice of voters, who in 1996 and 2000 passed ballot measures that expanded coverage for childless adults who earn up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

Brewer argues the expansion will give Arizona about $1.7 billion in federal financing. If the reimbursement funding dries up or drops below 80 percent, she also argues that the state will have the flexibility under the plan to cut benefits for childless adults.

Brewer’s support for the Medicaid plan is just another example of how the president's effort to expand the program has found unlikely champions among other Republican leaders. In Ohio, for example, Gov. John Kasich recently became a convert, even invoking God in his State of the State address to tell conservative lawmakers the vulnerable should not be left uncared for.

Brewer is still strongly opposed to most of Obamacare, but she favors the Medicaid expansion program because she believes it could help business in the state while helping to insure some of the most vulnerable.

Republicans, however, see it as a program that will eventually end up costing the state too much. For example, they point to a hospital fee as an example of what they describe as a “bed tax” to help fund the expansion.

“As more facts are revealed about the way it’s being funded, the bed tax and all, more members of our caucus fall off,” said state Rep. John Kavanaugh, who chairs the state House Appropriations Committee.

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