Brewer says killing "Obamacare" now could cripple the state budget

2013-10-10T00:00:00Z 2014-06-17T15:07:48Z Brewer says killing "Obamacare" now could cripple the state budgetBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
October 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday that she does not want U.S. House Republicans to succeed in their bid to shut down the Affordable Care Act, saying it would “devastate” the state budget.

Brewer said she has never been a fan of “Obamacare.’’ And she pointed out she was among several governors who sued — unsuccessfully — to have it declared unconstitutional.

But the governor said once it was clear the law would take effect, she sought ways to have Arizona take advantage of a key provision rewarding states that expand their Medicaid programs. In this state, that is the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which she described as the “gold standard” of Medicaid programs.

And she said that made it worthwhile to fight with members of her own Republican Party, to the point of forming an alliance with legislative Democrats, to push the plan through.

“The bottom line is we need that money in our economy to save rural hospitals and jobs in the rural areas,” the governor said, as well as making sure hospitals in metropolitan areas, where most AHCCCS patients are seen, get paid. “It’s all about jobs and getting back federal dollars that our taxpayers have paid to the federal government, to bring them home.”

Brewer estimates the Affordable Care Act will produce $1.6 billion in payments a year to the state’s Medicaid program. And she said there is no direct cost to Arizona taxpayers, with the state’s share being paid by a tax on hospitals.

That concern is causing the normally partisan governor to lash out at congressional Republicans as much as she criticizes the president for the shutdown in Washington over the issue of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s pretty clear that the Obama administration does not want to compromise one iota,” the Republican governor said.

But asked if House Speaker John Boehner is wrong in refusing to put a clean “continuing resolution” on the floor for a vote — one without repeal or delay of the Affordable Care Act — Brewer said it would be wrong to put all the blame on that side.

“I will agree that Congress doesn’t want to compromise one iota,” she explained.

“They need to come together,” Brewer continued. “They have to understand it’s their job to get it done.’’

And Brewer said those involved need to be realistic and recognize that Obamacare was enacted, it remains the law and the votes are not there to repeal it.

In pursuing Medicaid expansion — and tapping into the Affordable Care Act — the governor caused a schism in her own Republican Party earlier this year. If the federal law goes away, the problems Brewer created in her party will have been for naught.

But the governor said that’s only a piece of the fallout if Arizona does not get the money from Washington she is counting on.

“If it doesn’t happen, then we will be faced with a calamity,’’ she said.

The state was able to ignore a voter-approved mandate to provide expanded Medicaid services because the courts ruled the initiative required Arizona to use only “available’’ funds, which at a time of budget crisis were limited.

Since then, state finances have recovered. It ended the last fiscal year with close to $1 billion in the bank, plus another $450 million in a “rainy day’’ fund — money Brewer said she fears a court would force it use to fulfill the voter mandate.

“We will be forced by the courts to take those dollars out of our budget to pay for it,’’ she said, meaning less money for other programs.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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