Yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced her support for making Medicaid available to all low-income Arizona residents as envisioned by the health reform law. Brewer became the fourth Republican Governor to support expanding Medicaid with federal funds set aside by the health care law. This recent wave of Republican Governors supporting expansion proves further that making Medicaid a program that truly covers all low-income families shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
In making the announcement yesterday Gov. Brewer encouraged people to “[do] the math and weight the evidence” as she explained via twitter that the cost of today’s uninsured using the emergency room for care amounts to a “hidden tax” on those with health insurance.
Governor Brewer joined Republican Governors Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Governor Jack Dalrymple (North Dakota), and Governor Brian Sandoval (Nevada) in supporting Medicaid expansion. GOP governors are citing the large number of people who will no longer be uninsured thanks to additional Medicaid eligibility under expansion, and noting the positive fiscal impact expansion will have on their state.
Brewer announced her support for Medicaid expansion in her State of the State address, saying that it doesn’t make sense to forgo the federal dollars that come with expansion. The federal government will cover the entire cost of expansion for the first three years, and will continue to pay at least a 90 percent match for each additional year. Governors Martinez and Brewer intend to tie there states participation to a guarantee that this federal funding continues.
Currently, hospitals shift much of the costs of treating the uninsured on to insured patients. In contrast, health providers receive reimbursements for patients who are covered by Medicaid. Governor Brewer said that if the state turns down these available funds and the Medicaid expansion, Arizona will continue to have a high percentage of uninsured persons, many of whom show up in emergency rooms and will not be able to pay for necessary services provided to them.
Brewer, Sandoval, Dalrymple and Martinez join a growing list of governors who understand the positive impact expansion will have on their states. Medicaid expansion shouldn’t be a partisan issue – it is an issue of providing care for constituents and making responsible fiscal decisions.
Combined, these four states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Dakota) will see 280,000 people gain insurance through expanded Medicaid. But to make a major reduction in the nation’s massive number of uninsured, big states must get on board with expansion. For example, Texas and Florida, neither of which have signed on, have more than 2 million people that could gain coverage under the program according to recent estimates.