Lawmakers Begin Push to Scale Back State Healthcare for Poor

Phoenix, AZ – The plan is to reverse the mandate by voters a decade ago that
the state provide free care for everyone below the federal
poverty level, about $18,300 a year for a family of three. The
federal Medicaid program picks up about two thirds of the cost.
But Gov. Jan Brewer said Arizona can't afford its share which
computes out to about $1 billion a year. Her proposal would drop
about 280,000 people from the plan.

(Because we don't have the money, we're going to have to make
some really tough decisions. And those decisions have been made.
Unlike most budgets, I, the governor, have to present a balanced
budget to the people of Arizona.)

Brewer said all she wants to do is cut eligibility to what
already exists in other states. But last year's federal health
care law requires states to maintain the Medicaid programs they
had the day the president signed the bill or face the loss of ALL
federal Medicaid funds, about $7 billion a year. This legislation
authorizes Brewer to seek a waiver -- a waiver the governor
acknowledged is not guaranteed.

(I'm trying to be optimistic, hoping that they will grant us the
waiver. I know that many other states are with us on that. As
they start going through their budget process, they're going to
be calling for exactly the same thing we've called for.)

Republican legislative leaders say they have the votes to approve
the cut. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.