Lawmakers in Arizona have approved Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to expand Medicaid access under President Obama’s health care law, capping a months-long battle between the conservative governor and members of her own party.
Ms. Brewer surprised many observers by embracing the Affordable Care Act’s extension of public health benefits to those making up to 138 percent of the poverty level. Until then, her relationship with Mr. Obama was considered an icy one that featured a highly public tiff and finger-wagging on a tarmac in January 2012.
For six months, she lobbied state lawmakers to insure 300,000 more low-income Arizonans under the program, ultimately vetoing bills that came her way while the state budget and Medicaid plan sat idle.
“As an elected official of more than 30 years, I know that this process was not easy or without political risk,” she said late Thursday in a prepared statement. “By joining me in extending health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Arizonans, legislators of my own party have come under sharp criticism in some quarters. Some have had threats made not just against their political future, but also their personal livelihood.”
Her victory stands in contrast to fellow Republican governors’ efforts to expand Medicaid within their borders. Notably, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich failed to win over fellow conservatives in their respective legislatures.
Ms. Brewer hailed lawmakers in her state for acting with “courage and conviction.”
She said the health benefits will change lives and reduce the burden on business leaders who have to pick up the tab when the uninsured head to the emergency room.