As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares for what may be its final vote on a health care bill, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema sounded off on the contentious proposal.
Brewer, who earlier in the day signed a bill that will strip more than 310,000 Arizonans of Medicaid coverage while taking 47,000 children off of KidsCare, stood in front of the old Capitol building on March 18 and railed against a health care bill that she said will add $4 billion to the state’s overstretched budget.
Brewer said the state could not afford the coverage it currently offers under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, and cannot afford to expand coverage even further under the federal overhaul being considered in the U.S. House.
“We are in the largest catastrophic crisis Arizona has ever faced in its history. We had to make difficult choices, painful choices. Does anybody like it? Not necessarily. But I, as the governor, have got to have a balanced budget,” Brewer said.
Sinema followed with a press conference on the state House lawn, urging passage of the congressional bill, which is expected to provide health care coverage for about 31 million uninsured Americans. She said Arizona is costing itself $2.5 billion in federal matching funds for Medicaid with the AHCCCS cuts approved by Brewer and the Legislature.
“Today, Gov. Brewer and Republicans continued to show that they are more willing to push Arizona further down the wrong track,” said Sinema, a member of the White House Health Reform Task Force. “She and her colleagues in the party of ‘no’ continue to oppose putting American families and small business owners in control of their own health care.”
In her State of the State address in January, Brewer said Arizonans must “decrease visits to high-cost settings like emergency rooms.” But in her press conference, Brewer said the people who will lose AHCCCS and KidsCare coverage likely won’t have a choice.
“If they need health care they’ll be able to go to health clinics and present themselves at emergency rooms,” Brewer said.
A recent study by the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association estimated that Arizona would lose 42,000 jobs as a result of the AHCCCS cuts. Brewer did not dispute the number.
“It probably will,” she said, when asked if the AHCCCS cuts would cost that many jobs.
The U.S. House is expected to vote on the health care bill over the weekend. The bill would expand Medicaid coverage in all states to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, set up insurance exchanges in which people and small businesses could buy coverage, and require most Americans to get health care coverage or pay a fine.