Judge set to rule on Arizona's freeze of Medicaid enrollment

Childless adults have been locked out in an attempt to balance the budget, but opponents say the move violates the state's Constitution.

By Alicia Gallegos — Posted Aug. 1, 2011

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

A judge will decide in August whether an Arizona law freezing Medicaid enrollment for residents without children is constitutional.

The measure, which took effect July 8, prevents childless adults from enrolling in an assistance program that was part of a state Medicaid coverage expansion. Childless adults who received Medicaid before the July date will be grandfathered in, but future access will be denied if their enrollment is not renewed.

The law is needed to offset a budget shortfall and will save the state about $500 million in the first year, lawmakers said. Opponents argue that the measure will cause nearly 135,000 needy citizens to lose health care coverage in the next year.

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court for the State of Arizona against the state on behalf of residents who could be excluded from coverage. The plan violates the state's Constitution and infringes upon the wishes of voters, who in 2000 voted for childless adults to receive Medicaid benefits, said Tim Hogan, ACLPI executive director. "We filed a lawsuit because it's illegal. In Arizona you cannot repeal an initiative. As a matter of constitutional law, we're asserting that they are unable to do this."

In late June, the plaintiffs attempted to block the law before it took effect, but a judge denied the request. The judge said they could not prove "irreparable harm" because no resident had been denied coverage yet.

In a statement, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer applauded the court for denying the injunction, saying it would have interfered with state Medicaid reforms. "This effort is necessary if the state is to get a handle on state Medicaid spending that has increased 65% in just four years," she said. "That said, I do not revel in this court decision. I recognize that our move to freeze Medicaid enrollment of adults without children will have real-world impacts on real people. But I remain convinced this cost-cutting move is fiscally necessary and will allow the state to maintain its core services."

Hogan plans to request another injunction during an August hearing. By then, he said, he will have added new plaintiffs to the lawsuit who have been denied access to Medicaid.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has approved Arizona's phase-out plan for Medicaid. However, Cindy Mann, director of the CMS Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey & Certification, urged the state in a July 1 letter to consider an approach that would continue to provide financial assistance for vulnerable populations.

"We are concerned about the loss of coverage for low-income adults that will result from Arizona's decision to stop enrolling people into its Medicaid Childless Adult program," CMS said in a statement. "However ... it is the state's choice to renew, modify or terminate" the program.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn