Tags: Healthcare Reform | Arizona | Medicaid | expansion | fee | tax | obamacare

Ariz. Court: Legal Challenge to Medicaid Expansion Can Go Forward

By    |   Wednesday, 31 Dec 2014 07:05 PM

In a huge legal defeat for departing Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a group of state lawmakers have the right to challenge her Medicaid expansion plan in court, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The expansion, which added close to 300,000 people to the state's Medicaid rolls, is financially dependent upon a levy the Brewer Administration has termed an administrative fee. The measure was approved in 2013 by a simple majority of the state House and Senate.

But, writing for the Arizona Supreme Court, Justice Rebecca Berch declared that if the levy is actually a tax —  as opponents of the Arizona Medicaid expansion contend —  then the legislation required a two-thirds vote for passage under the state constitution.

The Goldwater Institute —  a right-of-center public policy organization which sued on behalf of 36 state lawmakers opposed to the expansion —  says it will ask a judge to immediately halt the funding

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge decided state lawmakers lacked standing to sue over Medicaid expansion, but the state Court of Appeals disagreed and reinstated the case. It will now return to Maricopa County Superior Court where a judge will hear arguments and rule on whether the tax itself is legal.

"Regardless of how the case ultimately comes out, today’s decision means that lawmakers can’t vote to ignore the Constitution," said Christina Sandefur, a senior attorney with the Goldwater Institute.

"Thanks to today’s decision, the dozens of lawmakers who voted against dramatically transforming Arizona’s Medicaid program —  putting the state on the hook for billions of dollars, and ceding the legislature’s taxing power to an unaccountable administrator —  will get to defend" their constitutional position.

Brewer put together a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans to support the expansion and push it through the Arizona legislature in a June 2013 special session. She has argued that the assessment does not require a two-thirds supermajority because it was not a tax increase; instead, she said it was an "administrative fee" set by the director of Arizona's Health Care Cost Containment System, not by lawmakers.

Without the assessment, Arizona would need to find another source of funds to pay its share of the expansion cost for Medicaid, a joint federal-state program heading towards fiscal collapse.

Incoming Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, opposed the expansion of Medicaid. But during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign he said it was unrealistic to discuss scrapping it now that hundreds of thousands of additional recipients are on the rolls, KNAU radio reported.

Thus far, 27 states and the District of Columbia have decided in favor of Medicaid expansion, while 16 states have rejected it. Seven other states have the matter "under discussion," according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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In a huge legal defeat for departing Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a group of state lawmakers have the right to challenge her Medicaid expansion plan in court, the Arizona Daily Star reported. The expansion, which added close to...
Arizona, Medicaid, expansion, fee, tax, obamacare
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2014-05-31
Wednesday, 31 Dec 2014 07:05 PM
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