Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-District 11, said his number one priority is defeating Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to expand Medicaid in Arizona.
Brewer unveiled the legislation last week, and the measure is slated to go through an appropriations hearing on Wednesday. The GOP governor has an uphill battle to get the legislation passed as Republicans like Kwasman have come together to oppose the passage of the bill.
Brewer is standing by the hopes of getting at least eight Republicans of the 17 in the Senate to side with Democrats on the issue as the debate moves through both houses. Getting enough Republicans to side with the governor in the House could prove to be more of a difficult challenge.
“As public officials, it is our duty to uphold the best interests of our state and the citizens we serve,” Brewer said last week. “I urge legislators to take a step back and reflect upon the real, human impact of refusing to pass this critical legislation.
“It’s simple. If we do not restore AHCCCS (Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System), hundreds of thousands of Arizonans will continue to lack health coverage, and nearly 60,000 more stand to lose coverage on Jan. 1, 2014. There is no Plan B.”
Brewer unveiled the legislation on the steps of the capital with backing from healthcare professionals.
By passing the legislation, Brewer said it would provide health care coverage to more than 300,000 residents statewide, providing an estimated $1.7 billion in federal funding.
Kwasman, however, disagrees with Brewer wanting to expand Medicaid, saying it is not a workable or an affordable long-term solution.
“Passing this will force Arizona to face its own fiscal cliff,” he said. “The best way to provide benefits is to provide economic growth. Allow businesses to grow and be able to pay for these benefits.”
While Brewer said the funding will come from federal coffers, Kwasman disagreed. Kwasman said while the federal funds are being promised as part of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Healthcare Act now, they likely won’t be in future years, leaving Arizona on the hook for the cost.
As Brewer travels the state promoting the Medicaid expansion, she stresses the legislation will help improve the Arizona economy by injecting $8 billion over the next four years.
Rep. Heather Carter, R-District 15, said she agrees with Brewer’s plan.
“AHCCCS works because it leverages the private sector and employs private sector principles,” she said. “AHCCCS members have their choice of health plans and doctors, and are treated in the same medical facilities used by all Arizonans. We do not have a government health care program. What we do have is 30 years of evidence to show Arizona has found a better and more cost-effective way to serve the health care needs of our most vulnerable citizens. With the passage of this legislation, we can get it right once again.”
Brewer is not the only Republican governor to push for Medicaid expansion despite opposing the Affordable Healthcare Act. Nearly 20 Republican governors are looking to pass similar legislation, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said not accepting the federal dollars for his own state would mean the money would just be spent elsewhere.
Kwasman disagrees with the argument that if the federal funds aren’t accepted they will just go to another state.
“That argument just doesn’t hold water,” he said. “Every cent is borrowed money. Look at how much we owe China. The claim that the money will go elsewhere is purely false.”
There is no date set for the Senate or the House to vote on the legislation as it is in the early stages.