Monday, May 23, 2011

Center for Law in the Public Interest Sues Over State's Health-Care Rollback

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2011 at 12:15 PM

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest petitioned the Arizona Supreme Court today to block a proposal by Gov. Jan Brewer to deny state-subsidized health-care coverage to low-income Arizonans.

Tim Hogan, executive director of the Center for Law in the Public Interest, said in a court filing that the Brewer administration’s plan to cut health-care spending flies in the race of the Healthy Arizona proposition approved by voters in 2000.

“This Court must uphold the law that Arizona voters approved in 2000,” Hogan wrote. “If it fails to do so, countless Arizonans will be denied health care to which they are entitled. If the Governor and legislature truly believe the only way to balance the budget is by reducing eligibility to the Proposition 204 population, then they should make their case to the people of Arizona who approved Proposition 204 in the first place. Absent approval of the voters, the Governor and the legislature lack the authority to repeal Proposition 204.”

GOP lawmakers balanced the state budget by cutting more than a half-billion dollars from health-care programs earlier this year, but gave Brewer discretion over how to slash the spending.

While she hasn’t attempted to take health-care insurance away from Arizonans who are currently covered under the Healthy Arizona proposition, Brewer has proposed denying healthcare insurance to any childless adults below the federal poverty level who apply in the future, as well as parents who earn between 75 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

For an individual, the 2009 federal poverty level is $10,890. For a single mom with two kids, the federal poverty level is $18,530.

Hogan argues in his court filing that the state can’t reduce the number of people covered under the Healthy Arizona program because it’s protected by the Voter Protection Act, a constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in 1998 that prohibits lawmakers from tampering with voter-approved measures.

“Prop 204 requires that everybody at or below the federal poverty level be provided with health coverage and the Voter Protection Act requires that if they want to change that, they need to ask voters again,” Hogan told The Range this morning.

Republican lawmakers have argued that Prop 204 states that “available funds” will be used to fund the program, but given the drop in state revenues in recent years, there aren’t any funds available for the program.

Hogan dismisses that argument.

“The state’s budget is $8.3 billion,” he says. “This population has first claim on the budget. (Lawmakers) have to fund what’s legally obligated first.”

Brewer's press office could not immediately be reached for comment.

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