Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) is the third Republican governor to accept Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program. The governor’s decision to expand Medicaid will extend health coverage to an additional 30,000 previously uninsured Arizonans.
In a speech on Monday, Brewer explained that expanding Medicaid is the right financial decision for Arizona because the federal government will reimburse states for the cost of expansion:
The governor said it makes no sense not to take the federal dollars. She said it’s not like opting out of what’s been called “Obama-care” will save federal dollars or go toward debt reduction.
On the other side of the equation, Brewer said not taking the money will continue to mean a high number of uninsured in Arizona, people who show up in emergency rooms to get care but are unable to pay. The governor said those costs amount to a “hidden tax’” of $2,000 per family.
Brewer could have a fight on her hands: While a few Democrat lawmakers stood to cheer, most Republicans not only stayed seated but refused to applaud.
Brewer joins New Mexico Gov. Sususan Martinez (R) and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who were the first GOP leaders to agree to expand Medicaid in their states. Seventeen Democratic governors have also accepted the expansion, but Republican politicians have been especially reluctant to cooperate with health reform.
About 19 percent of Arizona’s population doesn’t currently have health insurance, a statistic that spurred Brewer to expand the Medicaid program’s eligibility level. Nonetheless, GOP governors in some of the states with the highest rates of uninsurance are still resisting participating in any aspect of the health reform law, including its Medicaid expansion.