State Capitol News
10:09 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Obama Discusses Some Flexibility Under New Federal Healthcare Law

Phoenix, AZ – Last year's Affordable Care Act expands eligibility for the
federal Medicaid program beginning in 2014. That has led to
grumbling from governors who said their states cannot afford what
they are funding now. Speaking to the governors Monday, the
president noted the law does permit states to craft their own
alternatives -- in 2017. On Monday he agreed to back a plan to
accelerate that schedule by three years. But there's a bit of a
catch.

(If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as
affordably and comprehensibly as the Affordable Care Act does,
without increasing the deficit, you can implement that plan. And
we'll work with you to do it.)

The key is those conditions. States would need to provide
coverage for everyone below 133 percent of the federal poverty
level. That's even higher than Arizona's own system -- the one
that the governor hopes to scale back. And the president is not
going to underwrite state costs with federal dollars. Brewer, who
was in that meeting, was not impressed.

(It's not going to help me or any of these other governors.)

Brewer said there might be no reason at all for governors to beg
the administration for more flexibility if the president would
just cooperate. More than two dozen states, including Arizona,
have filed lawsuits challenging various provisions of the 2010
law, with different federal judges around the country so far
issuing differing rulings. Brewer said the governors asked the
president to let the issue go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court
where it ultimately will be decided, short-circuiting a series of
time-consuming appeals.

(And, of course, his comment was that he wanted to have a record.
And I'm thinking from that he wants to see if it doesn't work or
does't really work. So he's not going to agree to expediting it.)

The governor also met Monday with Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to promote her plan to scale back
Arizona's Medicaid program. Sebelius already has said the state
doesn't need her permission to shed about 250,000 from the rolls.
For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.