Jan Brewer Medicaid Cuts Have Arizona Governor Under Fire

Jan Brewer Medicaid Cuts Have Arizona Governor Under Fire

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) commented recently on the cuts to her state's Health Care Cost Containment System, which have imperiled the lives of some patients in need of an organ transplant. Brewer said that people branding the cuts as a real-life incarnation of "death panels" should be asking the federal government to send more money -- a perhaps surprising position from someone who continues to oppose the federal health care reform legislation passed earlier this year.

Brewer has declined to hold a special session to reinstate the funds, a refusal that leaves some patients' lives hanging in the balance.

Britain's Channel 4 reports on a recent encounter with Gov. Brewer regarding the matter:

"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.

A report from the Arizona Republic last week provides some insight in to what Brewer has spent most of that stimulus money on.

"Arizona simply doesn't have the money," Brewer told Channel 4's Sarah Smith when asked why it appeared that she was willing to risk the lives of endangered patients all for the purpose of slashing the $1.4 million transplant program amid $1 billion Medicaid budget shortfalls. A recent report suggested that Brewer's insistence that this specific program would be an effective one to disband is based on "flawed data."

The recommendation that Arizonans lobby the federal government for additional dollars also appears strange, not only because of a seeming message against fiscal austerity, but due to Brewer's ongoing opposition to Obama's health care reform law, which would in fact provide exactly the kind of federal dollars she says the state needs to reinstate the transplant program. As ThinkProgress points out, the Affordable Care Act would "foot 100 percent of the bill for states to expand [Medicaid] until 2016 and 90 percent after 2020" for states that are able to "maintain current eligibility levels in Medicaid and CHIP."

The Brewer Administration, however, recently claimed that it had been forced to cut the transplant program because the health care reform overhaul had prevented the state from being able "save cash by making it harder to qualify" for Medicaid.

WATCH Channel 4's segment on "death by budget cuts":

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