Arizona Will Expand its Medicaid Program

Governor Jan BrewerThis was really unexpected! The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, has announced that the state of Arizona will be expanding its Medicaid program. The federal funding that comes with the decision appears to be a primary motivating factor. If the Arizona Congress passes this initiative, it would greatly benefit the citizens of Arizona.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, has a track record of opposing the Affordable Care Act. She decided that Arizona would have a federally run health insurance exchange, something seen by many other Republicans as “opting out” of participation in the Affordable Care Act. Arizona was also one of the plaintiffs in the case against the Affordable Care Act that was heard by the Supreme Court in March of 2012.

All states have a Medicaid program. It is funded in part by the federal government. It is also funded by the government of an individual state. It is designed to provide health insurance coverage to people who are low-income and who cannot afford to purchase a health plan from a private insurer.

Some states give a unique name to their Medicaid program. Arizona calls Medicaid the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. This is the program that Governor Jan Brewer wants to expand. This is unexpected, as expansion of Medicaid is part of the Affordable Care Act.

It is clear that the federal funding that states receive to expand their Medicaid program is a primary motivator in Governor Brewer’s decision. According to the LA Times, she said that if she didn’t accept the Medicaid money for Arizona other states would claim those federal funds. She also said:

With this move, we will secure a federal revenue stream to cover the costs of the uninsured who already show up in our doctor’s offices and emergency rooms.

What would change if Arizona expanded its Medicaid program? The state would receive $1.6 billion in federal funding. The funds are to provide health insurance for an additional 240,000 residents, and also to continue insuring 50,000 childless adults. Anyone who earns up to 133% of the federal poverty level would become eligible for Medicaid coverage. The expansion would also help rural hospitals with the growing costs in caring for the uninsured.

It is my understanding that the next step would be for the Arizona House of Representatives, and the Arizona Senate, to approve of this decision in some specific way. Hopefully, the result is that a lot of low-income, uninsured, people in Arizona will have access to affordable health care soon.

Image by Gage Skidmore on Flickr