Arizona found itself with a surprise surplus earlier this year, estimated to be about $30 million in July.
Not surprisingly, constituents and their advocates and providers who found themselves on the budget axe wondered, loudly, if some of the cuts would be at least partly restored.
No, said Governor Brewer, who wants to use the surplus to reducde the state’s debt.
Advocates for former Medicaid recipients sued, arguing that under the voter-approved Proposition 204, the state is required to use funds from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to extend Medicaid benefits to anyone under the Federal poverty level. This year, the poverty level is $22,314 for a family of four.
The latest round of Medicaid cuts was against single persons without children. These are people who earn $5,000 or less per year, who now find themselves without the Medicaid safety net. Private insurance is not an option for these people, many of whom are mentally ill and unable to hold jobs (in short supply even for able-bodied and clear-minded folks).
Yesterday, the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a request to block the cuts, upholding an earlier ruling by the Maricopa County Superior Court. That Court had ruled that funding Proposition 204 was a political decision the Legislature could ignore if it chose to. The Appeals Court disagreed with this interpretation, saying that Proposition 204 depends on either Tobacco Trust Fund money, or supplemental funds. The Tobacco Fund has run out, and the state says it doesn’t have any supplemental funds. End of story.
Either way, the voters have been ignored twice–once by the refusal to uphold Proposition 204 and the Voter Protection Act, which upholds voter propositions. The second time is this latest refusal to use supplemental funds for voter-approved Medicaid beneficiaries that could now be made available through the surplus.
Brewer is making a habit of not keeping her word to voters. Voters followed her support of Proposition 100 last year, a temporary one-percent sales tax that was supposed to provide funds to schools in the event that they would face budget cuts. But school budgets have been cut anyway.
Let the record show that KidsCare, the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP), is facing its third year of an enrollment freeze. (Be sure to scroll down the page to see this explanation.) So kids whose families have fallen under the poverty level since the program was closed in January 2010 can’t get on that plan, either. The state is “not processing new applications,” according to the KidsCare page.
KidsCare is no longer listed on the Department of Health Services directory. “Nuff said.