Arizona Gov. Brewer Wins Medicaid Expansion

Yesterday on a vote of 18-11, the Arizona Senate approved a measure to expand Medicaid eligibility as provided for in the Affordable Care Act. Governor Jan Brewer, who has been a vocal opponent of the health care reform law signed into law by President Obama, came out in favor of expansion in January of this year.

The legislature had so far failed to approve expansion during its regular session despite fierce advocacy on the governor’s part. Brewer had followed through on her threat to veto bills that did not address the Medicaid expansion.

On June 11, Gov. Brewer called the legislature to Phoenix for a surprise special session.  In the end, after working overnight, a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans voted  for passage.

Fox News quoted Brewer, "The day has been a red-letter day for the people of Arizona. It was a win, win, win all the way around."

Other legislators complained that the special session was unnecessary and the House was due to take up the Medicaid budget and expansion soon anyway. The Arizona Capitol Times quoted Rep. Adam Kwasman, “(The governor) chose to call a special session because she could not wait two more days for Obamacare. She wanted Obamacare so badly that she could not wait to impose high taxes and a huge government program on the people of Arizona.”

Approximately 300,000 uninsured Arizonans will be eligible for coverage under the expanded eligibility, up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. According to the LA Times, the governor predicts the expansion effort will secure federal revenue — $1.6 billion — to cover the costs of the uninsured who already show up in doctors' offices and emergency rooms across the state.

Brewer is one of several Republican governors calling for Medicaid expansion. In Florida and Missouri, the governors’ proposals were defeated in the legislature. The success of governors in Ohio, Michigan remains to be seen. (See Kaiser Family Foundation chart for latest state activity.)