Ariz. Senate passes budget with Medicaid expansion - Fox 2 News Headlines

Ariz. Senate passes budget with Medicaid expansion

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A bit of a surprise at the State Capitol -- the Republican-led Senate has voted to approve Governor Jan Brewer's plan to expand Medicaid coverage to 300,000 people as part of the federal health care law.

The $8.8 billion state budget approved on Thursday night includes expanding Medicaid to 300,000 additional Arizonans.

The final vote came down 18 in favor of Brewer's plan to expand Medicaid and 12 against it and it's a decision that divided Senate Republicans.

It was a heated debate on the Senate floor.  Republican after Republican legislators spoke against expanding Medicaid in Arizona -- one of the key parts of President Obama's health care overhaul.

"By expanding Medicaid, we support the Obama Administration's goal of socializing medicine," said Sen. Kelli Ward.

Republicans urged their fellow GOP senators to vote against Brewer's plan -- which ads 300,000 more Arizonans to Medicaid rolls.

"Those of you who are on my side of the aisle that would sacrifice the future of Arizona economy in pursuit of Obamacare need to wait.. take a breath, we have time," said Ward.

But in a party divide, five Republicans voted with Senate Democrats.

Senate Republican and majority leader John McComish sponsored the Medicaid amendment -- one part of a larger $8.8 billion budget bill.

"The state of Arizona is going to lose Medicaid in the next three years if we don't pass this Medicaid expansion," he said.

The five Republicans voting against the Republican party majority joined 13 Democrats to pass the Medicaid expansion.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer shocked many when she announced in January she wanted to expand Medicaid after opposing Obama's health care overhaul for years. She says the Medicaid expansion will bring the state more federal dollars. 

The bill now moves to the House. Speaker Andy Tobin wants voters to decide the Medicaid expansion debate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Statement from Governor Jan Brewer
I thank the Arizona State Senate for acting in bipartisan, courageous and collegial fashion today to approve the single most critical policy issue that has faced our State in years: the restoration of our Medicaid program in accordance with the wishes of Arizona voters.

Now, I look forward to a similarly lively and productive debate in the Arizona House of Representatives.

When I announced my health care plan in January, I knew this would be a long and difficult road. But I also knew that as the information was presented to Arizonans, they would reach the same conclusion I had. Public polling bears that out, with strong support for my Medicaid Restoration Plan across party lines and among residents from every corner of our State. Even better, public support grows as people learn more.

With Medicaid Restoration, we can keep Arizona tax dollars in Arizona. We can use these resources to provide cost-effective health care to Arizona's working poor. We can protect our critical rural and safety-net hospitals. We can create thousands of jobs and improve Arizona's economic competitiveness.

These are all important reasons to support this Medicaid Restoration Plan, but there is also one more: Arizonans have voted twice to expand Medicaid to the working poor. With my plan, House legislators have an opportunity to make good on that promise with a vote of their own.


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