Law Firm Asks Court to Block Cuts to State's Health Care Program for Poor

Phoenix, AZ – An initiative approved by voters in 2000 requires the state to provide free care for anyone below the federal poverty level, about $18,500 a year for a family of three. But in an effort to cut expenses, lawmakers directed Gov. Jan Brewer to alter the program. And she came back with a plan to stop enrolling childless adults and some others, saving about $200 million. Attorney Tim Hogan said that's illegal. So he wants the state's high court to stop the changes, the first of which are supposed to take effect on July 1st. He said the state's budget crunch is legally irrelevant.

(It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of what the law requires. The Legislature and the governor are obligated to follow the law. This is clearly the law that these people are supposed to be covered with health insurance. They're violating the law when they propose not to do that.)

Brewer and lawmakers have argued they CAN make the change. They point out the measure said it was to be funded by tobacco taxes, the state's share of a settlement with tobacco companies and supplemented by -- quote -- any other available sources. And they said the state's financial condition leaves no available funds. But Hogan wants the high court to read that language as a requirement for the state to provide other funds when necessary.

(This population of poor people has a first claim on the state budget, $8.3 billion. And they're saying that they're only going to save $200 million out of that $8.3 billion by freezing that population. It's obvious that they could have funded this population if they wanted to.)

There is no word whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.