The battle over Medicaid expansion in Arizona moves to the courtroom today, less than three weeks before the expanded program is scheduled to take effect.
Hanging in the balance is whether an estimated 71,000 additional low-income Arizonans will be able to receive health coverage under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which is Arizona’s Medicaid program.
The lawsuit continues the fight from June, when a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers approved Gov. Jan Brewer’s request to expand AHCCCS eligibility to people who make up to 133 percent of the federal poverty limit, which is $31,322 for a family of four. The current cap is 100 percent of the poverty limit, which is $23,550 for a family of four.
Led by Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, all but two of the lawmakers who were on the losing side of the June vote sued to challenge one of the biggest public-policy changes in Arizona in decades.
They are joined by two residents and the director of the Arizona branch of the limited-government advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.
The case revolves around whether the Legislature had the authority to approve the funding plan that would be used to pay the state’s share of expanded Medicaid coverage.
Lawmakers approved a “provider tax” to be levied against hospitals, over objections from most Republican lawmakers that the vote violated the state Constitution.
The provider tax is designed to cover the state’s match to the federal dollars that will allow AHCCCS expansion.
The GOP lawmakers and allies argue that because the tax vote fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to approve a tax, the move was unconstitutional.
They also argue that Brewer’s plan violates the separation of powers because it allows an executive-branch agency, AHCCCS, to set that rate, rather than the Legislature.