House liberal wants review of Arizona Medicaid enrollment

The leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus wants federal health regulators to closely study their endorsement of a plan that would let Arizona drop as many as 280,000 people from its Medicaid rolls.

In recent months, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) had been asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to release the cash-strapped state from a healthcare reform law requirement to maintain Medicaid eligibility levels until 2014. But in mid-February, Sebelius informed Arizona it did not need a healthcare reform waiver to reduce Medicaid enrollment because the state’s Medicaid program for poor individuals was already operating on a federal waiver that the state could simply let expire on Sept. 30.

“Neither the [healthcare reform law] nor Medicaid law or regulation prior to its enactment require a state to renew a demonstration beyond its expiration,” Sebelius wrote to Brewer. “Arizona may choose to terminate its current demonstration on September 30, 2011, and either not pursue a new demonstration or pursue a different demonstration.”

Three weeks later, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to give closer review of Sebelius’s guidance to Arizona. Grijalva wants to open up the guidance to a 90-day comment period; hold a public hearing in Arizona with the healthcare industry and CMS officials; and prepare a fiscal analysis on the impact of dropping a quarter-million people from Medicaid rolls.

“[S]lashing the programs that have prevented further societal hardships would be a mistake,” Grijalva wrote to CMS Medicaid director Cindy Mann on Friday. “Input and consideration from the communities that may be impacted and a sound fiscal analysis must be completed before moving forward with this guidance.”