New Senate president opposes restoring health-care coverage to childless adults

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Newly minted Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs said he doesn't want to restore health-care coverage to the tens of thousands childless adults who lost their benefits over the last year ago due to massive budget cuts.

"I'm not speaking as the president, I'm not speaking as the representative of the caucus, I'm speaking as Andy Biggs and my thought is I'm not in favor of it," Biggs said on 3TV's Sunday talk show, "Politics Unplugged."

Biggs says the state can't afford to restore coverage even though the federal government would help and state's budget outlook has improved.

"When people say we have a much better financial picture, well, guess what, we do this year but we know in the next two years we don't," Biggs said. "So if we bring everyone back and expand that population you're looking at roughly a half-a-billion dollar shortfall in 2016."

About 100,000 childless adults have been kicked out of the Arizona Health-Care Cost Containment (AHCCCS) since July 2011 in order balance the state budget.

As the leader of the Senate, Biggs has a lot of power over which legislative proposals are voted on. Should Biggs block any efforts to restore coverage to the 100,000 childless adults, he could be picking a fight a legislative fight with Gov. Jan Brewer.

It’s been reported that Brewer favors restoring health coverage for childless adults. Biggs was clear that he was speaking for himself and not revealing any of his plans for the Senate.

But Biggs has been a longtime opponent of AHCCCS, calling in "socialized medicine." His views still haven’t changed.

"Do I still call it socialized medicine? Yeah, I don’t know what else to call it. We can call it AHCCCS. We can call it whatever, but it's still socialized medicine," Biggs said.

Two years ago, before he became the leader of the Senate, Biggs sponsored a bill to eliminate AHCCCS as it's currently operated.

"I ran a bill two years where we would set up our own socialized-medicine program in Arizona and what we would do is not participate in the federal portion of Medicaid," he said.