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Updated May 6, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Gov. Brewer still confident expanded Medicaid will pass

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday she remains confident her proposal
to expand Medicaid to 300,000 additional poor Arizonans will be enacted despite
a reluctant Legislature whose leaders are opposed to the plan.

Brewer sidestepped a question about whether she would veto the state budget if
it didn’t include her plan, something her spokesman repeated just last week. She
also declined to be drawn into the “drama” about whether Republican Senate
President Andy Biggs could lose his leadership position if he continues blocking
the proposal.

“I’m not going to go there with that drama that people are proposing,
rumormongering if you will,’ Brewer said after being asked if she thought Biggs
would lose his post. “I think that we can get through this and we’ll do it the
right way.”

Brewer made the comments following a ceremony where she honored Department of
Public Safety officers who were killed in the line of duty. They also come after
the Republican-controlled Florida House rebuffed GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s Medicaid
expansion proposal late last week.

Biggs wasn’t immediately available Monday. He’s said he’ll do everything he can
to prevent a vote on Medicaid expansion, although there are clearly enough votes
between minority Democrats and moderate Republicans in the 30-member Senate to
pass the bill. There are maneuvers supporters can use short of removing the
Senate president to force a vote, something Biggs himself suggested late last
month.

Brewer’s plan to add to the nearly 1.3 million people already on the state’s
Medicaid plan and prevent childless adults now covered from being dropped is
stalled, caught between conservative Republicans like Biggs and supporters. It
is a signature part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, which
Brewer and other GOP governors fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plan Brewer announced in January has the support of hospitals and the
business community is expected to bring in $1.6 billion a year in provider
payments from the federal government. She hopes to pay the state share of the
costs by using a hospital assessment expected to bring in $250 million a year.

Despite the Senate tally, the House is a closer vote, and it became even more
so when a powerful group opposed to abortion said it could not support it unless
it prevented money from going to Planned Parenthood, which uses Medicaid money
to provide women’s health care. Planned Parenthood also provides abortions
services, but does not use state or federal money for them.

But the Center for Arizona Policy’s foray into the battle cost the governor
Republican votes in the House, forcing the governor to waver and say she’d
accept some new restrictions to win back the votes. The problem is how to do
that without losing Democrats. She needs all 24 House democrats and at least
seven of 26 Republican to pass the proposal.

Brewer’s plan now is to put the Planned Parenthood language in a separate bill,
giving members from both parties cover. Democrats are suspicious and may not buy
the maneuver.

She said Monday she worried about losing Democratic votes, but thinks she’ll
get them.

“I’m always worried about losing votes on any piece of legislation that I
propose,” she said. “But the bottom line is I think they realize how important
it is to the citizens of Arizona and for the welfare of our state.”

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