PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Jan Brewer is wasting no time rallying support for her effort to expand Arizona's Medicaid plan, using a news conference at Maricopa Medical Center Wednesday to show she has backing from hospitals and the business community.
Hospitals are being asked to agree to a new bed tax to help pay the state's cost of adding about 300,000 low-income people to the plan, which Brewer said would bring billions of dollars in spending to the state health care industry.
The vast majority of the costs would initially be paid by the federal government under terms of President Barack Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, with slightly smaller amounts to come in later years.
Brewer said expanding coverage under the state's version of Medicaid, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, would cut uncompensated care that is currently absorbed by hospitals but ultimately passed on to consumers.
She estimates that costs an average Arizona family $2,000 a year in higher insurance premiums.
Leaders of the state's Chamber of Commerce community argued that cutting the number of uninsured in the state will lower insurance costs for businesses.
Brewer made the surprise announcement that she would expand the state's plan in a speech to the Legislature on Monday.
The governor has ardently opposed the federal health care plan and remains uneasy about the federal government playing such a large role in health care, but said the part that expands coverage to citizens who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line is the right thing to do.
"The decision faced by Arizona leaders today is not one of whether the Affordable Care Act should exist. It's the law of the land," she said. "Our decision is whether we will take the action that most benefits Arizona's families and businesses."