Brewer Makes Formal Request to Federal Officials to Scale Back State Medicaid

Phoenix, AZ – In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius, Brewer proposed to eliminate care for about 280,000 of
the 1.2 million people enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost
Containment System. The governor said the state's finances make
it impossible to keep the program as is.

(My goodness. It's grown, what, from 17 percent to 29 percent of
the budget in the last four years. We just simply can't do it. We
just simply don't have the money.)

Some of that is related to the economy. Higher unemployment means
more people qualify. But the big change -- the one Brewer wants
to reverse -- is the 2000 ballot measure requiring free care for
anyone below the federal poverty level, far more generous than
required by Medicaid. She needs federal permission to change that
because last year's national health care law forbids states from
trimming eligibility. The waiver request comes as hospitals are
exploring whether to tax themselves -- a levy they could possibly
pass on to patients and insurers -- as an alternative.

(I'm not real familiar with the hospitals' proposal. My staff is
currently working on that to try to get it down so that we
understand exactly what they're attempting to do. But it is
still, as I left there, I asked someone. And they said that they
did not believe that the amount of money that we need in order to
fill that gap can come from the hospitals' proposal.)

For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.