Bill limiting Medicaid to 5 years passes Arizona Legislature

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Legislature sent Gov. Doug Ducey a bill Thursday that would force able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients to get a job and limit some of them to five years of coverage.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar law last year but the Republican-controlled Legislature is hoping for backing from Ducey.

The House passed Senate Bill 1092 on a party-line vote, with Republicans in support. The Senate voted Monday, also along party lines.

The bill requires the state's Medicaid program to apply for a waiver from federal regulators every year to allow it to impose the new rules.

Federal officials said last year they were unlikely to approve the waivers because the rules don't further the objective of the Medicaid program.

The bill also imposes copays on unneeded ambulance and emergency room use.

There are exemptions for students, pregnant women, those on disability and those caring for young children, among others.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato wasn't immediately able to say if the governor supports the proposal.

Democrats railed against the bill during the House vote, calling the proposal dangerous for the poor. Republicans said they were not backing the bill out of spite.

"We want to protect people, and we want to make sure that people that need care receive it," said Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park. "We don't do it in a mean-spirited way."

During a Senate committee hearing last month, the bill's sponsor said the intent of the work requirement was to give people an incentive to get off public assistance and save taxpayers' money.

"In the interest of the serious problem of welfare benefits becoming an incentive not to work, and getting ahold of the out-of-control issue of Medicaid across the country and the taxpayers' money being spent to spent on programs which are unsustainable at any level, I'm bringing this bill back again," said Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix.

In her veto letter last year, Brewer said that the five-year cap could have meant throwing more than 210,000 adults off the state's Medicaid rolls, in additional to 253,000 children as soon as they reached their 18th birthday.

A fiscal analysis wasn't performed for the current bill.

There are about 1.6 million Arizonans in the state's Medicaid program, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

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