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State Capitol News

State senate eases restrictions on free health care

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – State senators voted Wednesday to ease restrictions on free
health care.

The legislation spells out that those who are single and without
dependents need to prove only once a year that they remain
eligible for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the
state's Medicaid program. The change is necessary to have Arizona
qualify for $1.6 billion in federal health care stimulus dollars.
But Sen. Russell Pearce said the state shouldn't cave in to the
federal government.

(What we're doing is allowing folks that no longer qualify for
AHCCCS to continue on the AHCCCS rolls because many of these
folks apply when they've lost their job. It's a short-term issue.
They become employed again. They no longer qualify.)

Pearce said legislative staffers said last year that requiring
people to prove eligibility every six months would save the state
$7.5 million a year. But Sen. Rebecca Rios said that estimate is

(I think the reality is by going from six months to 12 months we
will actually realize a cost savings because many people don't
become ineligible after such a short period and the amount of
resources that it takes to have case managers every six months is
very costly.)

And Sen. Barbara Leff said it would be irresponsible of lawmakers
to throw away $1.6 billion in federal cash over some
philosophical debate.