By Sally Colton
On July 8, 2011, the Arizona Legislature put a freeze on AHCCCS benefits to a category called “childless adults.” Childless adults are people who fall under the 100% poverty level that don’t qualify for benefits under another eligible category, such as aged, blind, disabled, pregnant, under 18, or parent of a deprived child. Although the government generously allowed childless adults who were already receiving insurance benefits through AHCCCS before July 8 to continue to do so, this is only under the expectation that they file a renewal of benefits every 12 months. However, part of the reasoning to make these cuts is that money will be saved because people will fail to reapply.
This means that people that are mentally ill (distinguished from seriously mentally ill, which would still be covered under AHCCCS) who move into this state and can’t afford insurance won’t be able to get benefits. This means that childless adults who lose their jobs in this oh-so-booming economy won’t have anywhere to turn for medical help if they get sick or temporarily injured. This means that people serving prison sentences that had AHCCCS before won’t be able to reapply and won’t have any opportunity for medical coverage when they get out. All of these repercussions seem to make society much more safe and stable.
So Arizona’s trying to save a little bit of money; isn’t this a good thing?
On the surface, the answer to this question seems to be yes, especially considering that Arizona has one of the most comprehensive Medicare programs in all the fifty states, and covering childless adults under the poverty level is not a requirement under the Federal Medicare Statutes.
However, the problem is that in 2000, Arizona’s voters (you know, normal, every-day people) passed Proposition 204, which took millions of dollars worth of tobacco settlement funds and supposedly distributed them over time to the AHCCCS system to pay health insurance for people we thought truly needed it. In 2011 though, instead of trying to pass another bill that forced voters to re-evaluate the AHCCCS budget, the government took matters into their own hands and implemented the AHCCCS freezes.
Apparently, if the Arizona Legislature spends too much money and needs to make budget cuts, then the voter initiatives are fair game for cuts. What do voters know anyway?
Hopefully something. The Arizona Constitution says the legislature can’t repeal a successful voter initiative, which is exactly the reason why attorneys with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, along with other organizations, brought a lawsuit against the government. On August 10, a judge in the Superior Court upheld the cuts. On October 19, the Center had a hearing with the Court of Appeals and is currently awaiting a decision.