Fri, Feb. 28

Oro Valley lawmaker seeks repeal of Arizona Medicaid expansion

PHOENIX -- Conceding his plan is likely doomed, a Southern Arizona lawmaker is leading the charge to repeal last year's expansion of the state Medicaid program.

The legislation by Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley, also would repeal what amounts to a tax on hospitals that is financing the state's share of the cost of the plan not financed by the federal Affordable Care Act. And any money already collected would have to be refunded to the hospitals that paid it.

Kwasman conceded he faces an uphill battle at best, as HB 2234 is going to the same representatives and senators who approved the plan just last year. Enough of his Republican colleagues sided with Gov. Jan Brewer and every Democratic lawmaker to make up a majority.

He said, though, there is information that was not available last year. For example, he cited a study out of Oregon, which found that emergency room visits increased after that state approved its own Medicaid expansion.

But any plan to overturn last year's vote faces a certain veto by Brewer who expended a lot of political capital getting it approved in the first place.

"The governor's Medicaid Restoration Plan was thoroughly discussed and debated last year and approved by a bipartisan vote of the Legislature,' said Brewer press aide Andrew Wilder. "Nothing has changed.'

No matter, Kwasman said.

He compared his legislation to the four dozen or so votes by the Republican-controlled U.S. House to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act even in the face of a certain veto by President Obama. And Kwasman, who is making a bid for Congress, has promised to be part of that effort if voters send him to Washington.

"I don't think there's anybody who thinks that he would sign a repeal of his own healthcare legislation,' he said. "I just think we need to have fighters up there.'

And Kwasman said this measure will "keep the pressure on so that maybe, in a future legislature with a future governor we could have that repeal.'

Kwasman said his push for repeal has nothing to do with his three-way race to become the Republican nominee to try to oust Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, saying it is consistent with how he has voted since he was first elected in 2012. But he also compared his action to congressional conservatives who have pushed the Tea Party agenda in Washington like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

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