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Arizona could lose health care stimulus dollars

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – A dispute over wording and timing of a state law could lose the
state more than $1.7 billion in federal stimulus dollars --
including more than $300 million already received and spent.
Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

The federal stimulus law says states can get extra money for
Medicaid programs if they haven't tightened up eligibility
standards since last July 1st. A state law enaced last year says
those enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment
System, the state's Medicaid program, have to come in every six
months to have eligibility reverified. Before that it had been
once a year. Based on that, federal health officials said Arizona
doesn't get the money. Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman
said the feds are wrong.

"The question is, really, whether or not we've changed the
eligibility, which we haven't. It's just happens more frequently,
twice as frequently."

And the state has a back-up position.

"The other question was whether or not we did it before July 1.
We say we did. They say we didn't. So we'll see."

Technically, the Legislature passed the bill in June. But the law
didn't take effect until September, after the deadline to not
make changes. Nick Papas, a spokesman for the federal department
of health and human services, said his agency is reviewing
Arizona's objections.

"Our goal is to ensure the law's followed and these critical
Recovery Act dollars are used to protect the health care coverage
for Arizonans."

The state hopes to get an answer by the end of the month.