Budget Update: Medicaid (AHCCCS) restoration plan passes the Senate

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

In 2004, a handful of Republican senators joined with Democratic senators to wrest control of the Arizona Senate chamber from an obstructionist Senate President. It hasn't happened since — until today.

A bipartisan Senate coalition, led by the Republican majority leader John McComish no less,
gave tentative approval Thursday to Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to restore and expand
Medicaid (AHCCCS). Ariz. moves closer to Medicaid expansion:

[The coalition beat back more than a dozen hostile GOP amendments sponsored by Senate President Andy Biggs and Sen. Kelli Ward, in a failed attempt to weaken the measure.]

The measure awaits a formal vote of the full Senate, which is expected
to come later today. If it passes, as expected, it’s likely to run up
against a buzzsaw in the House, where the fate of Medicaid expansion,
and the budget it’s attached to, remain uncertain.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, a steadfast opponent of the
governor’s proposal, fought unsuccessfully to kill it with a slew of
amendments, including requiring a two-thirds vote for approval,
eliminating a hospital tax that will help pay for expansion, converting
all state employee health insurance to Medicaid and repealing expansion
if even one Medicaid patient is found to be an undocumented citizen.

* * *

But again and again, two members of Biggs’ leadership team and three
other GOP senators stood with the chamber’s 13 Democrats to defeat
Biggs’ amendment. Majority Leader John McComish, Majority Whip Adam
Driggs and Sens. Rich Crandall, Steve Pierce and Bob Worsley joined
Democrats to approve the Medicaid amendment on an 18-12 vote.

“We’re faced with two unpleasant choices,” said McComish, who
sponsored the Medicaid amendment. “If we don’t do Medicaid expansion,
our rainy-day fund will be totally wiped out.”

One of Biggs amendments was successful, requiring a three-year
“sunset” review by the Legislature of the expanded health-care program.
That provision also is contained by a package of bills unveiled this
week by House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) adds, Senate gives preliminary approval to Medicaid expansion:

Whether that wave of momentum carries
over into the House next week, when representatives are likely to begin
debating the $8.8 billion budget and the expansion of the Arizona Health
Care Cost Containment system, remains unclear.

The votes for Brewer’s expansion plan in the House are far less certain than they were in the Senate.

* * *

McComish, R-Phoenix, supported one of
Biggs’ amendments: a sunset measure that would repeal Medicaid expansion
on Jan. 1, 2017, essentially requiring the Legislature to vote again in
four years and decide if the state still wants to continue the program.

* * *

“The only thing we know for sure about
the state of Arizona over the next three years is we’re going to lose
money if we don’t pass Medicaid expansion. And with the Biggs floor
amendment, we know that in three years, we get another crack at it,” he
said.

House leaders will likely huddle next week to see what support there
is in the chamber for the Senate budget and Medicaid expansion.

* * *

Earlier in the day, Senate Republicans
briefly entertained the possibility of blowing up the budget and
starting from scratch next week, but budget deals reached by Senate
Democrats and a few Republican dissenters forged ahead in approving the
$8.8 billion budget – to the dismay of the majority of Republicans.

One by one, Democrats’ amendments were offered, initially rejected,
but then approved on division votes in the Senate Committee of the
Whole. That was despite the objections of a majority of the Republican
caucus, who watched helplessly as Crandall, Pierce and Worsley joined
with the minority party to approve most of their wishes.

House Republicans crossed over from their
chamber to watch the voting take place, getting a glimpse of what could
transpire in their chamber next week.

* * *

Meanwhile, the Democrats succeeded in
adopted amendments including $9 million for Child Protective Services,
$875,000 for Navajo Technical College and funding for the Arizona State
Parks Board and Arizona Arts Commission.

A plea came Ward during the morning caucus for Republicans to unite.

“I would like to see our caucus come together as a caucus,” Ward
said. “I’m tired of seeing Republicans picked off to vote for a Democrat
budget.”

But Hobbs said Republicans were finally getting a taste of their own
medicine. Democratic amendments are routinely shot down by majority
vote in the Senate.

“We’ve also been able to show how tenuous their majority is. That’s a win right there,” Hobbs said.

Today was a good day. It was a well-deserved humiliating defeat for Tea-Publican obstructionist Andy Biggs. Enjoy it. And then start calling your Tea-Publican House members to pressure them to vote for this Medicaid (AHCCCS) restoration and expansion bill. Tell them to show the same courage to do the right thing as these five senators showed today.

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