Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has kept up a steady drumbeat to get the Legislature to pass her plan to use federal funds to expand the state's Medicaid benefits. She does so in the face of some real opposition from those further to her right in the Republican party and the Arizona Legislature.
Extending Medicaid benefits to the working poor is one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act and our Jan is rallying behind this. She tweets Medicaid, talks Medicaid to anyone who will listen, and happily poses with health care providers who share her support for a program that in past years she cut down, even defying a voter referendum that ordered its expansion.
It's like she's been reincarnated as a Happy Warrior, Republican-style.
"Conservatives like Barry Young understand why my Medicaid Restoration plan is so critical," she tweeted yesterday, along with the link to their conversation broadcasted locally on KFYI. (The Governor doesn't appear until five minutes in and the Medicaid conversation starts at about nine minutes.) Her comments indicate just how committed she has become to the Medicaid program. There is no doubt in her certainty that allowing it to expand is best for Arizona, particularly the 150,000 adults who lost AHCCCS care after the cuts two years ago. (In Arizona, Medicaid is known as AHCCCS, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System).
Here are her talking points:
- The money has already been allocated for Medicaid expansion. It makes no sense to let it go away when the state can use it.
- The funds will go a long way to prevent uncompensated care, which is eventually passed along to insured people and taxpayers.
- Accepting the Affordable Care Act payout will not cost the state a dime. This is technically incorrect. The federal government funds most of the Medicaid program. To get the $2 billion in Obamacare funds from the federal government Arizona will have to contribute $154 million.* But there's no question that the state will receive a huge windfall.
- Arizona's AHCCCS program is the "gold standard" for Medicaid. "Other states come here to see how we do it," she told Young.
*According to the Governor's website, the feds will deliver about $1.6 billion, considerably less than $2 billion but still a nice chunk.
"They don't drill down," Brewer commented about Republicans in Arizona, including many in the Legislature. "Give them the information they need to have to do what's right for the state of Arizona."
Brewer said that one of the most common misconceptions about Medicaid expansion is that the money will go to help people here illegally. This is simply untrue. "This is a program for Arizona citizens," she stated.
Four other Republican governors have decided to follow Brewer's lead and accept Obamacare funds for their states' Medicaid program. They are Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio, and Chris Christie of New Jersey.
More information on Medicaid expansion is on the Governor's website.