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State Capitol News

Republican Lawmakers Vote to Ask Goverment to Scale Back State's Medicaid Program

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/knau/local-knau-946988.mp3

Phoenix, AZ – Gov. Jan Brewer says the state could save more than $540 million
next budget year by eliminating care for 280,000 of the 1.2
million now enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment
System. But she needs federal permission because the new national
health care law requires states to maintain eligibility at what
it was when that measure was signed last year by the president.
Much of the debate, though, centered around whether Arizona
lawmakers could trim the program, even with federal OK, as it was
voters who decided in 2000 to provide free care for everyone
below the federal poverty level. Sen. Andy Biggs said the
language of the measure said the cost would be borne by tobacco
tax and lawsuit settlement revenues -- and other AVAILABLE funds.
He said the state has no available funds. And he brushed aside
threats of a lawsuit.

(And I will find it very intriguing if any judge will say, you
don't have enough money in your checkbook to pay all your bills
that are due and yet we are going to require you to go further in
the hole.)

But Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said there are other available funds, as
shown by the governor's request to increase funding for the
Department of Corrections.

(I think one could reasonably argue, and certainly hold legal
claim to this, that there are other available funds. It's just
that the governor in her budget proposal has chosen to spend them
elsewhere.)

It could take months for Washington to decide whether to grant
the waiver. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.