Arizona governor Jan Brewer has agreed to a large expansion of the state's Medicaid program, a key component of President Obama's health care reform. Now the third Republican governor to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, Brewer said Monday in her State of the State address that other states would have claimed those funds and jobs would have not have been created if she had turned down federal money for Arizona. The governor stated that the Medicaid expansion would insert $2 billion into the Arizona economy.
Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval are the other two Republican governors who have agreed to expand Medicaid to anyone who earns up to 133% of the federal poverty level.
Arizona will receive $7.9 billion in federal funds over four years to expand the health care insurance program to roughly 300,000 low-income residents. Currently, around 49 million Americans lack health insurance, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.
Last year, the landmark Supreme Court decision which affirmed President Obama's health care overhaul overturned a provision that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion and run their own Medicaid programs with their own eligibility standards. Since the court's decision, Republican governors in nine states—Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, Maine and Louisiana— have refused to take part in the Medicaid expansion.
A longtime opponent of Obamacare, Brewer stated that because "the law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court."
"The Affordable Care Act is not going anywhere, at least not for the time being," Brewer said. In meeting with hospital CEOS and lawmakers who have anticipated and urged her decision, Brewer demonstrated to rise above her staunch conservative platform and break the trend of conservative states with economical Medicaid programs.
In announcing the expansion of Medicaid, Brewer declined a key provision of Obama and stood by her previous claim that Arizona would not establish a state-run health insurance exchange. This decision will affect how tens of thousands of Arizona residents and small businesses will look for health insurance starting 2014. Instead of the state controlling this exchange, Brewer has decided that the federal government should control this marketplace that would allow individuals to shop for health benefits and to learn if they qualify for financial assistance or Medicaid coverage.
In addition to this decision, Brewer is also setting measures in place to protect Arizona's budget. The Affordable Care Act states that the federal government will pay the full cost of covering newly eligible individuals from 2014 to 2016, then scale back funding to 90% by 2022. Because the federal government would cut back on its share of financing the Medicaid expansion, Brewer has proposed what she calls a "circuit breaker" a measure that would "address both of those concerns and safeguards Arizona."
Brewer's "circuit breakers" would be built into the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, so that if federal subsidies were reduced, the state would shrink Medicaid enrollment. "I will not allow Obamacare to become a bait and switch," Brewer pledged.
Brewer told Arizona lawmakers that their state could not refuse additional funding from the federal government, especially when it came to the health care law. "We cannot wag our finger at the federal government," reminding them of her controversial interaction with the president last year. "Trust me, I tried that once."