Arizona Supreme Court weighs legality of state’s Medicaid expansion

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Daily Star

The fate of health care for 400,000 Arizonans could depend on what seven justices of the state Supreme Court believe voters said they wanted 25 years ago.

There is no question that Proposition 108, approved in 1992, requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate for any new or increased tax. The constitutional amendment also applies to the “authorization of any new administratively set fee.”

What is also clear is that the Legislature voted in 2013 to allow the director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, to impose an assessment on hospitals to pay for the state’s share of a federal program to provide health care to more people. But that measure passed with only a simple majority. Republican lawmakers who opposed the assessment — and had enough votes to block it if it needed a two-thirds vote — argue that the measure was illegally enacted.

If the court agrees, that could eliminate the $290 million the assessment is expected to raise this year — the funds needed to get the federal dollars that pay for the care of 400,000 Arizonans.

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