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Updated Sep 11, 2013 - 6:38 pm

Medicaid expansion foes fail to block law

PHOENIX — Opponents of a new law expanding Medicaid in Arizona failed in
their effort to block the law by forcing a referendum, conceding Wednesday that
they just didn’t collect enough signatures.

The group was about 5,000 short of the 86,405 signatures they needed before the
5 p.m. Wednesday deadline, organizer Christine Bauserman said.

The failure was a victory for Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who put her political
legacy on the line by embracing a signature part of President Barack Obama’s
health care law in January and pushing it though a Legislature packed with
conservative GOP opponents of the law. She managed to corral enough members of
her own party to join with Democrats and pass the law on June 13 in the final
hours of a tumultuous session.

“It’s validation that Arizonans see Medicaid restoration as the right thing
for Arizona’s future,” Brewer said in a statement. “The state will continue to
move forward with the implementation of my plan, which will retain
cost-effective healthcare for 60,000 Arizonans, reduce uncompensated care, fight
the associated hidden health care tax, protect rural and safety-net hospitals
and take pressure off our strained state budget.”

Bauserman joined former Sens. Frank Antenori and Ron Gould in organizing the
effort to block the law. Gould and Bauserman cited a hot summer, a short time
frame and efforts by a group backing the governor’s Medicaid expansion plan,
known as Restoring Arizona, to limit their fundraising and run a
counter-petition drive.

She said Wednesday while collecting final petitions in the shade of the Arizona
Capitol that the group wasn’t finished, but will regroup and keep fighting
“Obamacare.” She also said the group will target the handful of Republicans
who backed Brewer during the battle.

“The divide in the party has just gotten bigger and more inflamed,” she said.
“It’s the national Republican Party platform. It says repeal Obamacare, and how
can you be in the party and not support it?”

The Goldwater Institute is considering a lawsuit to block the law. The group
argues that because it uses a new assessment on hospitals to pay the added state
costs, Medicaid expansion requires the 2/3 legislative vote needed to raise
taxes. It must wait until the law officially takes effect Thursday to file suit.

The expansion plan will add about 300,000 poor Arizonans to the 1.3 million
currently on the state’s Medicaid insurance plan. About 60,000 of those people
were previously covered but fell off the plan after the Legislature and Brewer
cut the budget during the recession.

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