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Judge: Arizona Medicaid expansion was constitutional

August 27, 2015

Originally written by Mary Jo Pitzl for AZ Central

The case hinges on whether a hospital assessment lawmakers approved to fund the expansion, which extended health-care coverage to more than 250,000 low-income Arizonans, is a fee, as its proponents argued, or a tax.

Judge Douglas Gerlach, in his ruling, said the fee “does not qualify as a tax,” as the 36 Republican legislators who opposed it have argued. As a result, there was no need for a two-thirds supermajority to enact the legislation.

The Goldwater Institute, which represented the GOP lawmakers who filed the suit, said it was disappointed with the ruling but will appeal.

The issue is about more than Medicaid expansion, Goldwater attorney Christina Sandefur said. The case’s outcome could affect future decisions to raise fees and assessments.

In 2013, then-Gov. Jan Brewer, working against the objections of many of her fellow Republicans in the Legislature, got the necessary approval by assembling a coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers who passed it with a simple majority vote.

Wednesday’s ruling isn’t the last word on the case.

Gerlach acknowledged as much at a June hearing in the case, noting appeals will be filed regardless of his decision and that the state Supreme Court will ultimately decide the matter.

“My decision probably has no more impact than the outcome of a spring-training game,” said Gerlach, who has worked as a baseball umpire.



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