Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer muscled her way to victory in her crusade for Medicaid expansion Thursday, outmaneuvering conservative opposition to push through a key piece of President Barack Obama’s agenda.
Over the objection of Republican legislative leaders, a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats sent Brewer a bill on Thursday extending Medicaid to an estimated 300,000 low-income uninsured Arizonans, transforming the state into the unlikeliest of Obamacare allies at a critical time for the White House.
The vote is the end of a chapter, though not the book, on Obamacare in Republican-led Arizona, where Brewer defied — and sometimes confounded — her base. She not only supported the Medicaid expansion, but took extraordinary measures to push for its passage. Other GOP governors who backed Medicaid were not nearly so emphatic in fighting back against balky Legislatures.
Brewer, however, spoke loudly and carried a big stick — crisscrossing the state to promote expansion and shame detractors. This month she started vetoing a stream of unrelated bills to pry her top priority loose from Republicans, and she brought them back into special session.
Oof. The specially assembled legislators in the state House passed the bill in the wee hours of the morning, and the Senate followed through this afternoon, after which her office released the following statement:
I am grateful to the Arizona lawmakers who have acted with courage and conviction by completing the people’s business.
With landmark votes today in the House and Senate, legislators have tackled the issue that is Job One every session — adoption of a responsible State budget — and enacted Arizona’s most sweeping health care legislation in decades. …
This Medicaid Restoration Plan does not solve all of Arizona’s health care challenges. But it will extend cost-effective care to Arizona’s working poor, using the very tax dollars our citizens already pay to the federal government. it will help prevent our rural and safety-net hospitals from closing their doors. And it will boost our economy by creating more than 20,000 jobs at a time when Arizona needs them most.
Uh huh. Brewer certainly isn’t the only Republican governor to fall in behind rapacious domino-effect of state-by-state Medicaid expansion, one of the biggest and most expensive components of ObamaCare — Susana Martinez and Chris Christie in the more blue-leaning New Mexico and New Jersey, as well as John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida — but it certainly looks like she put up the most impressively aggressive fight in the law’s favor.
Some apt closing reminders about the Medicaid-expansion provision, courtesy of Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner:
Though federal taxpayers pay for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion at first, over time, that percentage dwindles to 90 percent, exposing states to a huge financial burden. In 2012, Medicaid already accounted for 24 percent of state budgets nationwide, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, making it larger than than any other component of spending, including education. The expansion of Medicaid is projected to cost $710 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but it could be more if more Republican governors such as Brewer fight successfully to expand the program. Last month, a major study found that Medicaid does not approve the physical health of its beneficiaries.