Anxious over serious state deficits, many Republican governors have decried Medicaid as the “monster” eating at the budget. Chief among them is Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who is committed to gutting Arizona’s Medicaid program at the expense of transplant patients. Ignoring pleas from Democratic lawmakers and transplant patients to restore the $1.4 million in funding to the transplant program, Brewer insists that such “optional,” “Cadillac” treatment for the dying must go toward recouping one-tenth of a percent from Arizona’s projected budget shortfall.
Brewer is no stranger to sacrificing the welfare of vulnerable constituents for a buck. But this particularly callous dogma made enough waves across the pond to bring Britain’s Channel 4 News Washington correspondent Sarah Smith to her doorstep. Confounded by Brewer’s dismissal of the lives her decision damns, Smith asked Brewer “how many people have to die” before she’d reverse her position. Calling the “obvious” question “unfair,” Brewer then quipped that “if people are so worried about the transplant patients, then they should ask the federal government in Washington to send us more money”:
I managed to “doorstep” her as we call it in TV – i.e. I caught her at a public event and just started asking questions, uninvited.
“How many people have to die before you are prepared to reverse your decision on the transplant operations?” seemed like the obvious question.
She said she thought that was unfair and started to explain how dire the state’s financial situation is. If people are so worried about the transplant patients then they should ask the federal government in Washington to send us more money, she said. But she would not explain to me, or to any Democrats in the state capitol, what she has done with the nearly $200 million she was already given in ‘stimulus funds’ to spend on anything she liked.
While suggesting that Arizonans should request more federal funding, Brewer openly vilifies a law — the Affordable Care Act — that provides exactly that. The health care law’s Medicaid expansion will foot 100 percent of the bill for states to expand until 2016 and 90 percent after 2020. However, to receive this funding, states have to maintain current eligibility levels in Medicaid and CHIP, something Brewer does not wish to maintain. And despite being well-aware of Arizona’s need for the health care law’s financial support, Brewer remains an outspoken champion of its full-scale repeal. In other words, Brewer is telling transplant advocates to ask for a helping hand she fully intends to bite.
While such dismissive treatment of those in need paints this Republican in a miserable light, Smith notes that Brewer’s position does help the GOP out in one notable way. In their interminable search for proof of health care “death panels,” right-wing Republicans need look no further than Arizona.