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Once feted by grassroots conservatives nationwide, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer moved radically to the left in 2013. In her State of the State address, she surprised many by embracing Obamacare, calling for a massive expansion of Medicaid.
Like many state politicians, she claims the multi-billion dollar expansion would be largely funded by "free" federal money. Of course, the funding dries up in the out years and comes with strings attached that will tie up the state for years. And then there's that tiny problem of the federal government having no money in the first place.
The GOP-controlled statehouse isn't making it easy for Gov. Brewer, killing the expansion in committee yesterday. But all the Democrats, along with a few squishy Republicans, plan to reintroduce the issue on the floor — perhaps as early as today. Adding to the pressure, Brewer has promised to sign no legislation until Obama’s Medicaid expansion is sent to her desk. To prove her point, she quickly vetoed five bills.
Arizona’s current Medicaid system, called AHCCCS, is actually better than most states’ programs. A big reason for this is that the state held out for several years to get a better deal with the feds. As a result, AHCCCS is better at controlling costs while providing more options for the truly needy.
This time around, Gov. Brewer quickly caved to the Obama administration’s strong-arm tactics — an administration that has repeatedly sued and demonized both her and the state she claims to represent.
As usual, expansion supporters are insisting they are only doing this for the poor. But several studies suggest that Medicaid may actually hurt its supposed beneficiaries. A recent Oregon study showed that there is zero evidence that Medicaid saved any lives or made any improvements in several objective health markers.
The last time Arizona expanded AHCCCS, proponents insisted it would save money. Some legislators didn’t buy that claim and projected it would cost about $400 million, eight years later. The actual cost was more than $1.6 billion, four times as expensive as projected.
Far-left outlets like ThinkProgress are praising the governor for “sticking by her convictions.” Meanwhile, conservative publications like National Review are excoriating her for betraying her party, her state and basic economics:
Under law, the states cannot be forced to accept the Medicaid expansion. It is up to them. Some Republicans have stood strong against it, and some are rolling over for the Obama administration. Governor Brewer is for the moment unique in that she is throwing a gubernatorial temper tantrum on behalf of expanding government-run health care. Our hope is that Arizona’s legislators will keep the Medicaid expansion out of the budget and, for the good of the state, pass the budget over the governor’s veto. Governor Brewer may not be around to see the bill for the Medicaid expansion when it comes due, but Arizona taxpayers will.
For the people of Arizona, let’s hope state legislators stand firm so that Brewer’s tantrum isn’t rewarded.