by Jim Nintzel
We mentioned earlier today that the Center for Law in the Public Interest has taken legal action to stop a plan by Gov. Jan Brewer to block low-income Arizonans from getting state-subsidized health insurance.
Brewer spokesman Matt Benson told The Range this afternoon that the governor “is confident in the legality and constitutionality of her Medicare reform proposal.”
Benson said the crux on the legal argument will revolve around whether the state has “available funds” for the program.
As we reported earlier, Tim Hogan of the Center for Law in the Public Interest argues that the state has funds available for the program but lawmakers decided to spend them elsewhere.
“The state’s budget is $8.3 billion,” he says. “This population has first claim on the budget. (Lawmakers) have to fund what’s legally obligated first.”
Benson noted, as a side note, that the plaintiffs in the petition to the Supreme Court appear to now be covered by AHCCCS, so there may be a question of standing.
Benson added that if the state is forced to continue to provide health care to everyone in Arizona under the federal poverty line, it will cost the state an estimated $207 million, which will blow a considerable hole in the state budget.
Benson said that Brewer might consider a proposal from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association to tax hospitals in order to continue to fill the budget hole and draw down federal matching funds for AHCCCS, but Republican lawmakers have been cool to the idea.
“She’d consider the bed tax if it had some legislative support,” Benson said.