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New AZ Medicaid Law In Effect Despite Attempt To Kill It

The state's new Medicaid law is in effect today after a petition drive to kill it faltered But, Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports this is not the end of the fight.

Referendum organizers gathered fewer than 82,000 signatures by Wednesday's deadline, about 5,000 short of what's needed to put the issue to voters. That leaves intact the measure pushed through the Legislature by Governor Jan Brewer to tap into the federal Affordable Care Act to add about 300,000 to state Medicaid rolls. Foes of expansion are now weighing a legal challenge because the state's share is being paid for with a levy on hospitals - and the constitution requires a 2/3 vote by lawmakers for any tax hike, something this did not get.

But, gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder called the levy an 'assessment' and not a tax as defined in the constitution. "There are countless examples where agencies have been given such fee authority," Wilder said. "The legislature has granted it over 80 times over the past 5 years."

The other fight is more long-term. Former state Senator Frank Antenori said Republicans who voted for expansion are violating the party platform which seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And now he has a list of those willing to work to oust those incumbents in next year's GOP primary. Antenori said, "that's 80,000 people we get to mail to and talk to between now and August 2014."

But, Governor Brewer is not standing idly by. She already has scheduled a fundraiser next week for 13 of her supporters at the home of an executive for Vanguard Health Systems whose hospitals stand to benefit from having more patients with insurance.