/ Modified jan 14, 2013 3:31 p.m.

Brewer Calls for Medicaid Expansion

Would go to 133% of fed poverty level, with safeguards

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called on the Legislature Monday to expand Medicaid funding for the state's low-income residents to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Brewer, in her State of the State speech, said she proposes expanding the program under the U.S. Affordable Care Act, to bring the state $2 billion in additional federal funding for health care.

"Remember, Arizona citizens have voted twice to expand Medicaid coverage," Brewer said.

She pointed out that the current system of underinsured and uninsured people going to emergency rooms, where the costs are absorbed and passed along to those who can pay, costs an estimated $2,000 annually per Arizona family.

Brewer said she will ask the Legislature to build what she called a "circuit breaker" in the proposed expansion to protect the state against possible future federal funding cuts.

"I won't allow Obamacare to become a bait and switch," Brewer said to applause.

In addition, she said, "we will allow hospitals and health care facilities to assess a fee against themselves. ... With the revenue this self-assessment generates, we can assure that our state bears no cost in expanding Medicaid."

Such a plan, called a "bed tax," has been proposed before by state health care officials as a way of helping provide the state's match to keep federal health dollars flowing. Until now, the Legislature has not acted on it.

In her speech, Brewer also called for:

  • Emergency funding for Child Protective Services to allow hiring 50 more caseworkers.

  • Reform of the state's sales tax collection system this year.

  • More funding for school resource officers to provide protection at schools.

  • Arizona control over 30 million acres of federal land in the state through an executive order naming an Arizona Natural Resources Review Council.

  • Expansion of border security to the Tucson sector, "the most heavily traveled gateway for illegal crossings in the country." Until that is taken on, Brewer said, she won't support comprehensive immigration reform.

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