Tuesday, August 2, 2011

AHCCCS Suit in Court Tomorrow; Arizona Chamber Opposes Cuts to Health-Care Coverage

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Attorney Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest is scheduled to be in court tomorrow to argue his case that Gov. Jan Brewer can’t simply cut health-care coverage for Arizonans under the federal poverty line.

State lawmakers looked to chop Arizona’s AHCCCS spending by more than $500 million in order to balance the budget earlier this year.

Gov. Jan Brewer is trying to cut that spending by blocking any new childless adults from signing up for AHCCCS, even though voters approved the eligibility levels by passing the Healthy Arizona initiative 11 years ago. She has more plans to reduce eligibility that still need federal approval.

Hogan argues that the eligibility levels set by voters can’t be reversed without another vote of the people.
So far, he’s struck out in the courts. The Arizona Supreme Court declined to block Brewer’s new policy, telling Hogan he needed to start in Maricopa County Superior Court. Hogan was due in court to present his case on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

As we’ve detailed in TW, Arizona’s hospitals are worried that the cuts in coverage will result in big losses for them, which could push some of them (particularly in rural areas of the state) into bankruptcy and force them to close their doors.

The hospitals have found an unlikely ally in the fight to preserve coverage. The Arizona Chamber Foundation, an offshoot of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, recently issued a lengthy policy brief that examines the options available to the state. If you're feeling particularly wonky, you can read it here.

The big takeaway: State lawmakers should reconsider a proposal from the hospital to create a new tax on health-care providers that will allow the state to continue to provide coverage for low-income Arizonans—and allow the state to continue to receive federal matching funds that would otherwise be lost if that state cuts off coverage.

Whether lawmakers will listen to the Chamber remains to seen, especially given that the advice involves both a tax increase and helping poor people get health-care coverage. The likelihood that they’d reverse their decision to cut AHCCCS funding depends largely on whether the courts agree that the Legislature and Brewer are breaking the law by reducing the coverage.

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