Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has a message for her party: expand Medicaid — or else.
The combative GOP governor is sticking by a threat she made to veto all legislation until lawmakers resolve the 2014 state budget and pass Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. On Thursday, Brewer proved that wasn’t just talk, vetoing five bills sent to her desk in quick succession.
“I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us: adoption of a fiscal 2014 state budget and plan for Medicaid,” wrote Brewer in her veto message. “It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat.”
Arizona officials only have five weeks before reaching the constitutional deadline for passing a budget. Last Thursday, six Republican state senators joined a unified Democratic caucus to pass a Medicaid expansion bill — but efforts have been gummed up in the state House since then.
Brewer isn’t letting the issue slide. She has been touring the Grand Canyon State to shore up support for the expansion and put pressure on reticent lawmakers in her own party.
Some Republicans opposed to the expansion have warned of dire political consequences for lawmakers who buck the traditional conservative opposition to Medicaid. In a letter to Republican legislators, the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Committee wrote of the state senators who voted for expansion, “Their egregious actions will have serious consequences. Their political careers are all but over and their days numbered.” He referred to Brewer as a “rogue governor” in the same statement.
But Brewer appears to be sticking by her convictions. At the beginning of the year, she became the third Republican governor to embrace expansion, asserting that it would provide health coverage to 50,000 low-income Arizonans. While promoting the expansion in March, Brewer attested to the dire consequences of failing to expand Medicaid. “The human cost of this tragedy can’t be calculated,” said Brewer, flanked by public health officials, doctors, and advocates for the poor. “Remember, there is no Plan B.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates that expanding Medicaid would cut Arizona’s uninsurance rate by nearly a third.