The Arizona Senate is debating a proposal to expand taxpayer-funded health care benefits for unemployed residents.
The proposal includes extending unemployment benefit eligibility from 59 to 72 weeks, allowing the state to claim $1.7 billion in federal stimulus funding that lawmakers plan to put toward Medicaid expansion and decreasing the state’s budget deficit.
Under the proposal, benefits would be extended the additional 13 weeks if the state unemployment rate reaches 8 percent. It is currently at 7.8 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bill also would reverse a measure passed last year requiring Medicaid recipients to reapply for benefits every six months instead of every year.
Tax and Spend ‘Spiral’
Opponents of the proposal say it will dig the state deeper into debt for no tangible benefit.
“All of this shifting of money and doling out of overly generous benefits in a time of real budgetary constraints points to the need to block-grant Medicaid as a program and allow states to prioritize and set up their Medicaid programs in a way that makes the most sense for them,” noted Paul J. Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation. “Washington clearly doesn’t know best.”
Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.
For more information …
Arizona Senate Bill 1322: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/1r/bills/sb1322s.pdf