Arizona House Votes for Five-Year Lifetime Cap on Medicaid

Mar 7, 2014

The state House voted Thursday to put a five-year lifetime cap on government-funded health care — but not on everyone. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

House Speaker Andy Tobin

Medicaid in Arizona covers anyone whose income is less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or close to $27,000 a year for a family of three. Washington pays most of the cost, much of that through the new Affordable Care Act. House Speaker Andy Tobin said there are signs those federal dollars might dry up.

“We’re nervous about what the federal dollars are going to be coming in to our state. If we don’t have the ability to ask some options that can help us, this is for down the road obviously, it’s not for tomorrow, but to ask for some options down the road, Arizona’s system could, in and of itself, be a problem,” Tobin said.

So, he wants to ask permission to add conditions, like a requirement that recipients work, be looking for a job or in training. But, the biggest was that five-year lifetime cap. When it was pointed out that people could be working full time and still earn less than the income cap, Tobin agreed to back off a bit, saying they should keep their benefits. That still didn’t convince Democrats including Rep. Juan Mendez to support the plan.

“This legislation is a slap in the face to the reality of how basic care serves to deter poverty. This legislation demonizes the poor while it is the job economy that refuses to hire new employees while corporations are banking huge profits overseas,” Mendez said.

The bill now goes to the Senate.