State Capitol News
9:52 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Group claims Brewer Medicaid expansion will bloat the system

In a report, a free-market advocacy group claims that the decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to expand Medicaid will sharply increase the number of people in the program. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

Gov. Jan Brewer
Gov. Jan Brewer
Credit Politico

There are now about 1.3 million people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. That’s with eligibility at the federal poverty level — about $19,500 a year for a family of three — and not enrolling single adults living in poverty. The new law, using funds from the federal Affordable Care Act, boosts eligibility to 138 percent of poverty level and again allows single adults into the program. Michael Bond, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, said that will add close to 1.1 million in the first year alone. That figure is disputed by both the governor’s office and Matthew Benson representing Arizona hospitals that support expansion.

“The report doesn’t say how they get to that figure. Right?” said Benson. “It doesn’t say. They’re seemingly pulling a lot of these figures out of the air.”

Bond said prior Medicaid expansions have produced similar results. And Bond, a finance lecturer at the University of Arizona, said that doesn’t even consider the federal government advertising the insurance exchanges — and fines for not having coverage.

“Remember: You’ve got this marketing campaign going on with these exchanges,” said Bond. “And a lot of people who are going in thinking they’re going to buy health insurance are all of a sudden being put into Medicaid.”

The report comes as the expansion faces its first legal test in court on Friday.