flickr.com- AZ Gov. Jan Brewer
Recognizing the looming budget catastrophe that faces the state of Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer is advocating eliminating free health care benefits for thousands of poor Arizonans.
Citing a successful year 2000 ballot proposition that mandated free healthcare for every family that fell below the federal poverty level of $18,310 for a family of three, Brewer said, "While we agree we must provide essential services for those with no place else to turn, we must only offer those benefits necessary."
In 2000, backers of the initiative ran a well financed campaign that promised the cost of expanding the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) program would be covered by the state’s share of the federal settlement with the tobacco companies.
In 1999, the total number of people eligible for AHCCCS in Arizona was 508,917. At the beginning of this year, that number had exploded to 1,262,560.
"Contrary to what voters were told, there is no such thing as free health care," Brewer said. The governor then pointed out that almost 1 billion of state spending is attributable to the year 2000 proposition that remains unfunded.
Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, was quick to back the idea of sending the proposition back to voters. He believes people need to take responsibility for their own needs.
"It's hard for me to believe that one-sixth of the population of the state of Arizona has to have government assistance in their health care, “Burns said. “They make choices in how they spend the money they earn, so maybe health care needs to be put up in a little higher category."
Democrats in the state House of Representatives were quick to criticize the Governor for her lack of leadership in the budget crisis. In a January 11th Press release, House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell said, “Arizonans see their kids’ teachers being laid off, less funding for law enforcement in neighborhoods and health care taken away from kids and seniors. Today, Gov. Brewer talked about how it’s time for political courage. It’s time that she shows us hers.”
Naturally there was an immediate frenzy among liberals complaining that health care is a human right and it is the obligation of the state to provide it to all of the “needy.” However, the state of Arizona is out of money and lawmakers rightfully are reluctant to raise taxes on struggling citizens while costly programs such as free health care remain in tact.
The Governor and the legislature are finally recognizing that its citizens can no longer afford to have their money confiscated for such purposes. They will be widely criticized, but deep cuts to AHCCCS are appropriate.