Earlier this month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s (R-AZ) elimination of organ transplants for Medicaid recipients and the resulting death of two Arizonans prompted a national outrage that eventually led her to restore funding for the program. Yesterday, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the GOP’s number two leader in the Senate, defended Brewer’s draconian cuts and blamed them on the health care reform law signed last year by President Obama:
“Even more controversial and very sad, Arizona has stopped Medicaid funding for several kinds of transplant surgeries on October 1. This is a kind of rationing required by Obamacare. The state cannot afford the most expensive procedures therefore it has to cut them back all because they are prevented by law from dialing back the coverage of these adults without children. The one place they can cut is on transplants…there is no other option. Many of those who have been critics of the decision with respect to transplants have failed to tell the whole story. The Governor had to make that difficult decision, because the health care reform bill eliminated a key option she otherwise would have had to dial back the coverage to the level of other states.”
As ThinkProgress has reported, Brewer did not have to cut funding for organ transplants, as Kyl claims — she was even presented with twenty-six alternative funding proposals by one Republican official. Brewer, and now Kyl, ignored these alternatives and argued that “the state only has so much money,” even though Brewer’s budget still managed to find funding for corporate tax cuts, algae research, a coliseum roof renovation, and “bridges for endangered squirrels.”
Although the Governor eventually restored funding for Medicaid transplants, she has now proposed to slash Medicaid for more than 280,000 Arizonans. A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that this year Arizona was one of only two states to reduce health service for low-income families and the only state to cut health insurance for children. Brewer’s cuts were an outlier even among Republican governors, and were not, as Kyl claims, the result of provisions in the health care reform law.
In fact, the health care reform law provides states with almost 100% of the funding to expand their Medicaid program and grants matching funds to states that don’t reduce their Medicaid eligibility. While thirty-three Republican governors have asked for waivers from the federal government to cut Medicaid eligibility in order to close budget shortfalls, only Brewer has cut Medicaid so deeply and dramatically. Now, as the Senate debates repealing the Affordable Care Act, Brewer’s deeply unpopular, draconian healthcare policies have won the support of one of the Senate’s most influential Republicans.