SPONSORED:

Arizona Supreme Court upholds state's Medicaid expansion

Arizona Supreme Court upholds state's Medicaid expansion
© Getty Images

The Arizona Supreme Court on Friday upheld a critical component to keeping the state’s Medicaid expansion and preventing the number of people in the state’s Medicaid program from dipping.

The high court unanimously ruled that a hospital assessment used to help pay for Medicaid expansion — where the federal government pays a majority of the tab but states are still on the hook for a smaller percentage — is constitutional.

At issue was whether the hospital assessment constituted a “tax.” A group of 36 current and former GOP lawmakers had argued that it was a tax and thus required two-thirds legislative support.

ADVERTISEMENT

If the court had sided with Republican lawmakers, it would have jeopardized the health insurance of the 400,000 Arizonans who had gained coverage under ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, according to The Arizona Republic.

Arizona Chief Justice Scott Bales said in the unanimous opinion that the assessment was not a tax requiring two-thirds legislative majority to enact.

“The assessment is imposed by the director on hospitals, a narrow class, and directly benefits hospitals by expanding [Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System] coverage for uninsured patients, thereby increasing payments to the hospitals,” Bales wrote.

In 2013, the Arizona legislature voted to expand Medicaid to more low-income people, a move championed by the state’s former Republican governor, Jan Brewer.

Thirty-one states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid. Earlier this month, Maine residents voted in favor of a measure to expand the program, but it appears the move won’t happen anytime soon, as Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has vowed not to expand the program until the state finds a way to pay for it.