Court Rules That Lawmakers Can Still Challenge Medicaid Expansion

Apr 22, 2014

The state Court of Appeals ruled today that lawmakers on the losing end of last year's Medicaid expansion fight have a constitutional right to challenge the law and the levy it imposes. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Gov. Jan Brewer

The plan pushed by Gov. Jan Brewer taps funds from the federal Affordable Care Act to expand coverage under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to anyone up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $27,000 a year. The old law provided care only to those below the poverty level. But, to pay the state’s $256 million annual share, the measure imposes what Brewer calls an assessment on hospitals. Foes said that is a tax which can be enacted solely with a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate, something Brewer could not get. But, Brewer got their lawsuit thrown out of court on the argument they lack standing to sue. The Court of Appeals disagreed, rejecting the governor’s contention that a simple majority of the Legislature can decide when a two-thirds vote is required. Brewer vowed to seek Supreme Court review.

“All Arizonans should be concerned by the court’s decision which could prevent the state’s ability to restore quality, cost-effective health care to tens of thousands through our model program, the AHCCCS program here in Arizona,” Brewer said.

The judges did not block the state from expanding Medicaid, but simply said that if the state’s costs are being paid for by what amounts to a tax, then the constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote cannot be ignored.