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Center Vows Suit Over AHCCCS Cuts

April 1, 2011

PHOENIX - Up to a quarter-million low-income, childless adults would be cut off from Arizona's Medicaid program under various budget proposals being debated by lawmakers and the governor, who claim the current program is not sustainable. But Tim Hogan, director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, says he is ready to file suit the moment such a budget is signed into law. Hogan says the basis for the lawsuit is simple.

"The AHCCCS population was protected by Arizona voters in 2000 when they overwhelmingly approved an initiative to cover individuals up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, and the Legislature can't change that."

Hogan says the Arizona Constitution also prohibits the Legislature from changing voter-approved initiatives. Budget bills containing the AHCCCS cuts could be passed and sent to Gov. Brewer as early as next week.

The 2000 initiative that expanded AHCCCS coverage relied on tobacco settlement money to pay for it, but also said "available dollars" from the general fund could be used as well. Lawmakers say the state is broke, so there's no money available; Hogan disagrees.

"If memory serves me correctly, the total budget is (about) $8 billion. That means they might have to take it out of some other areas, but they've got the money. They've just chosen to spend it in the way they want to spend it. They're just blatantly disregarding the law here."

Cutting health care to about 250,000 people may actually cost the state money in the long run, starting with the loss of the two-dollars-for-one federal match, adds Hogan.

"You lose all that federal money. You lose jobs. You end up with overflowing emergency rooms, people seeking medical care there. You're going to have more sick people who don't get care. That can't be good for the rest of us."

Hogan believes the state Supreme Court would act fairly quickly with an injunction to stop the AHCCCS cuts from taking effect.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ