The Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning voted 3-2 in favor of expanding the state's Medicaid program.
Republican supervisors Ally Miller and Ray Carroll opposed.
The supervisors were voting on a recommendation from county administrator Chuck Huckelberry dated April 3, which concludes that expanding Medicaid, "is in the best interest of our state and the residents of Pima County."
Gov. Jan Brewer recommended expanding the program earlier this year. Arizona's Medicaid program is called the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).
Under Brewer's plan, AHCCCS would enroll people making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, rather than the current cap of 100 percent. The poverty level means an annual income of $11,490 or less for a single person. Taking the qualification up to 133 percent of the poverty level would work out to a maximum annual income of slightly more than $15,000 for a single person.
The expansion would cover an additional 57,000 Arizonans. But more significantly, the expansion would give what state officials say is enough federal matching funds to cover childless adults.
With the federal matching funds, the state would be able to restore coverage to 240,000 childless adults and continue coverage for 50,000 others.
"I recommend the board of supervisors pass the resolution in support of Governor Brewer's plan to restore Medicaid and thereby encourage the Arizona Legislature to approve the governor's plan to expand AHCCCS coverage for Arizonans in need," Huckelberry said.
County officials say the reduction in AHCCCS availability has already increased costs to the county.
As more individuals experience barriers in medical and behavioral care they are more likely to destabilize, according to a county news release.
That leaves them more likely to end up in emergency rooms or in county-run detention facilities or being committed for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization, which is the county’s financial responsibility, officials said.
If the Arizona Legislature passes the expansion plan, it would take effect in January 2014, when most provisions of the new federal health law also take effect.
The Star published a story last week about doctors on both sides of the Medicaid expansion issue.