Thursday, February 17, 2011

Health Care Showdown: Obama Slips GOP Trap

Posted By on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 1:50 PM

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The Obama adminstration used a little political ju-jitsu on Gov. Jan Brewer and GOP lawmakers.

Brewer and GOP leaders had made a big deal about asking the Obama administration for a waiver so they could go forward with plans to kick somewhere in the neighborhood of 280,000 people off the AHCCCS rolls.

It was a smart play, because if the White House denied the waiver, it would allow Republicans to say they had no choice to cut K-12 education, universities, and everything else—and blame it all on Obamacare.

But it appears the Obama administration has been even smarter: Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius found a loophole that allows the state to get out of providing health insurance to most of the population that Brewer wants to dump.

But whether Republicans can go forward with their plan remains to be seen because the current eligibility guidelines were put in place by voters, which means lawmakers are supposed to go back the ballot if they want to make changes.

Brewer and the GOP caucus are counting on a pretty narrow interpretation of the law to say they don’t need to provide the coverage: They essentially argue that the law calls for the state to use “available funds” to provide the insurance and they say there aren’t funds available. Does that argument hold up in court when you’ve just found enough funds available for a ginormous tax break? Guess we’ll find out.

BTW: While we recognize that Arizona is more generous than most states, we'd point out that there are plenty of reasons not to dump the current eligibility requirements, including the likelihood that doing so will—according to studies—cost the state lots of federal matching funds that help support the health-care system along tens of thousands of jobs in the health-care sector. As the Arizona Chamber of Commerce has argued in the past, it’s also likely to force private insurance companies to raise their rates because they'll be losing out on what amounts to an enormous government subsidy. (And that’s not even considering the impact on people who get sick and find themselves without health insurance.)

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