After months of simmering on a back burner, Arizona's decision to stop paying for some medical transplants has politicians' rhetoric on the issue nearing the boiling point.
Or maybe that's just the frustration of Gov. Jan Brewer and other Republicans being slammed by Democrats and other critics.
"Bickering and ankle-biting" on the issue, Brewer told reporters questioning her Thursday, "is very unfair and not solving the problems of the state of Arizona."
The Democrats said it's Brewer and her Republican legislative allies who aren't being fair - to the nearly 100 people newly ineligible for certain types of transplants.
"This Brewercare has set up real death panels in Arizona and it is outrageous and disgusting," said Rep. Anna Tovar.
The Tolleson Democrat - and transplant recipient herself - was recycling and retargeting rhetorical constructions used by Republicans during spring debate over President Obama's health-care overhaul.
Arizona's transplant funding cuts were included in cost-saving measures ordered as part of the Republicans' budget-balancing approved last spring over Democratic lawmakers' objections.
The federal government's Medicaid program doesn't mandate coverage of the transplants dropped from Arizona's coverage, and Brewer contends that the cash-short state cannot afford to maintain and restore optional coverages when it can't afford the basics.
Democrats dispute that, saying it would cost the state only an affordable $1.2 million.
The transplant funding cuts took effect Oct. 1, and renewed references to "death panels" surfaced immediately in Democrats' comments.
A key Republican lawmaker, House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, said Democrats' criticism of Republicans on the transplant issue "poisons the field" for the 2011 regular session that starts Jan. 10.
"It hasn't even started yet and they're calling us executioners," Kavanagh said during a recent interview. "I've been called worse, but your average person is turned off being called a killer."
Democratic legislators show no sign of letting go of the issue.
The incoming Senate Democratic leader, current Rep. David Schapira of Tempe, on Thursday introduced a transplant funding bill as the first piece of legislation prefiled for the 2011 session.
"Brewer describes these transplants that she chose to discard as 'optional,' " he said. "A transplant isn't an option for someone who is fighting for their life under Brewercare."