Gov. Jan Brewer asked congressional leaders and members of Arizona’s own delegation to Washington to eliminate budget-busting requirements for state Medicaid programs.
Brewer sent a letter to Republican U.S. House Speaker-elect John Boehner seeking an end to mandates because spending on Medicaid programs is the key cause of the state’s budget crisis, the Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.
“We cannot afford this increase without gutting every other state priority such as education and public safety,” Brewer said in the letter.
When Arizona voters expanded Medicaid coverage in 2000 to cover all Arizonans living at or below the federal poverty level, the measure was to be largely paid for with revenue from a federal tobacco settlement.
Since then, membership and costs have tripled.
The Arizona Republic said the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which is Arizona’s Medicaid program, covers about one in five Arizonans at a cost to the state of $1.4 billion.
The program has become the single biggest source of the state’s budget gap with a $2.25 billion shortfall predicted during the next 18 months.
State lawmakers have cut payment rates and eliminated some non-mandated services such as some medical transplants. But their options are limited.
As a result of receiving federal stimulus money for Medicaid, Arizona is required to maintain its current eligibility level for mandated services.