Republican Lawmakers Not Happy with Gov's Plan to Expand Medicaid

Jan 15, 2013

The plan by Gov. Jan Brewer to expand the state's Medicaid program is getting raised eyebrows from members of her own Republican Party.

Gov. Jan Brewer addresses the Arizona Legislature for the annual State of the State speech. Behind her is House Speaker Andy Tobin.
Credit Howard Fischer / Capital Media Services

On Monday the governor said she wants Arizona to participate in the federal Affordable Care Act. Brewer said while she is philosophically opposed to what some call Obamacare, it makes no sense to say 'no' to the $1.5 billion a year in federal dollars that would come by providing coverage for more people. The governor said the state's share would be paid by a tax on hospitals. But Rep. John Kavanagh said he's not sure that's fair.

"The Medicaid patients are all in hospitals in poverty areas," Kavanagh noted. "The tax will be collected in all hospitals. So there's a big shift of money from middle and upper-income areas to low income areas."

The governor also assured lawmakers her plan has what she calls a circuit breaker to ensure that Arizona is not stuck footing the entire bill if federal help is reduced. Senate President Andy Biggs was unconvinced.

"They've already included in their plan a reduction of matching funds in two years," Biggs said. "So is it going to go away in two years? I mean, that's my question. So there's a lot of questions that need to be answered."

Brewer's staff says the change could cover more than 200,000 uninsured, reducing the burden of uncompensated care now borne by hospitals.