Last year, Flagstaff Forty joined Greater Phoenix Leadership, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona Medical Association, and many other key organizations in strongly urging passage of expansion of Medicaid coverage, as provided for under the Affordable Care Act. Such an action would provide health insurance coverage for an additional 57,000 Arizonans, while bringing an additional $8 billion federal dollars into the state over a four-year period. (Arizona voters have already twice voted that the State restore Medicaid coverage for people with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.) This large infusion of funds not only will be of great help in balancing the state budget going forward, but also will provide a substantial boost to the Arizona economy. Moreover, it moves Arizona away from the current system in which hospital patients with insurance, cover the cost of treating those without.
After listening to the advice of healthcare professionals within our membership, the members of Flagstaff Forty voted to urge passage of Medicaid expansion in Arizona. We contacted Governor Brewer and every member of the legislature requesting favorable action on this issue. Governor Brewer soon joined the state business leadership and medical community in asking the legislature to take this step. After a long, contentious regular legislative session, in which the leadership in both the house and senate failed to move a Medicaid expansion bill forward, the governor called a surprise special session. In that 3-day session, 14 Republicans joined the Democrats in passing a bill which expanded Medicaid and set the 2014 state budget. The governor promptly signed the bill into law on June 17.
This issue may not, however, be completely settled. Two former Republican senators (Antenori and Gould) are attempting to gather enough signatures to place a measure on the fall 2014 ballot that would, if passed by a majority of Arizona voters, overturn the law passed in the special session. Should these two and their supporters succeed in collecting enough signatures, and the courts uphold that this bill is subject to referendum (the governor argues it is not), Medicaid expansion would not take effect pending the outcome of the 2014 vote. Flagstaff Forty will carefully monitor developments.