State Capitol News
11:03 am
Thu March 21, 2013

No Consensus Yet On The State's Medicaid Expansion Plan

An hours-long hearing this week on plans to expand the state's Medicaid program produced lots of comments and rhetoric but no consensus. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

Arizona currently provides free health care for most people below the federal poverty level, about $19,000 a year for a family of three. Governor Jan Brewer wants to expand that to 133%. She says there's no direct state funds involved, with $1.6 billion from the federal Affordable Care Act and the state's share paid by a new tax on hospitals. The plan has backing from key business groups.

But the governor has run into philosophical opposition from within her own Republican Party, including Representative John Kavanagh. "The reason why we oppose this expansion, quite frankly, is it's going to bankrupt the country," Kavanagh said. "We're going to be a third-tier country. We're on the road to Greece. And, trust me, I think that is going to far more have a negative effect on the business climate on the state of Arizona than whether we interject some health care funded by money primarily borrowed from China."

But that was mild in comparison to the comments of A.J. LaFaro, chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee. LaFaro said, "Jesus had Judas, Republicans have Governor Brewer. So, on that note, thank you very much."

In a written response, gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said his boss would not get into a war of words with LaFaro, saying "there's nothing I could say that could diminish his credibility any more than he already has."