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Court to Scrutinize State Legislature’s Challenge to Medicaid Expansion


Gov. Jan Brewer will get a chance to stop some Republicans from trying to undermine the financing for her expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Lawmakers voted last year to raise eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $27,300 a year for a family of three. While the federal government will pick up much of the cost, Brewer’s plan funds Arizona’s share with what she calls an assessment on hospitals. But, some Republicans said it’s really a tax — a tax enacted illegally because it didn't have the constitutionally required two-thirds vote. So they sued. The Court of Appeals agreed with them, pointing out there were enough of them to keep the measure from getting that two-thirds margin. Now the state Supreme Court will consider Brewer’s plea to toss out the challenge. Gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder said his boss believes the lawsuit is baseless.

“Gov. Brewer doesn’t see that this is about politics. It’s about the more than 276,000 Arizonans who risk losing their crucial cost-effective healthcare. It’s about the viability of our rural and safety-net hospitals. And it's about the ability of our state budget to fund critical programs and services essential to our most vulnerable,” Wilder said.

But, attorney Christina Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute who represents the dissident lawmakers said this is about something else: Whether the voter-mandated requirement for a two-thirds vote on higher taxes can be simply ignored because a majority of lawmakers say so.

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