Fox Falsely Blames AZ Medicaid Shortfall On "Illegal Immigrant Population"
Research ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF & JUSTIN BERRIER
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy agreed with former Arizona representative J.D. Hayworth's false claim that Arizona's Medicaid budget shortfalls can be attributed to immigrants in the state. In fact, Arizona's Medicaid system explicitly prohibits undocumented workers from receiving benefits, and the shortfall is reportedly due to expanded eligibility and the economic recession.
Doocy Agrees: "Real Problem" With AZ Medicaid Budget Is "Illegal Immigrant Population"
Doocy Agrees With Hayworth: The "Obvious Solution" Is "To Make Sure That Medicaid Dollars Don't Go To Noncitizens." On the April 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, during a segment on a possible surcharge on smoking and obesity to fill a budget shortfall with Arizona's Medicaid program, guest and former Arizona representative J.D. Hayworth claimed the "real problem" is "American taxpayers" paying for health benefits for the "illegal immigrant population." From Fox & Friends:
HAYWORTH: This is the danger. The nanny state. I mean, we see the weigh stations on the interstate for tractor-trailer trucks. Would you have that kind of situation? It sounds absurd, but it's the camel's nose under the tent. And what we're ignoring here is a far more obvious solution, and that is to make sure that Medicaid dollars don't go to noncitizens, and we don't continue to see, what is it, almost 60% of the illegal immigrant population having no health insurance coming in and American taxpayers paying for that? That's the real problem. Now, Arizona tried to address this, and the open borders crowd and the Chamber of Commerce and these fast food magnates happy to swap the cost or ship the cost on to the taxpayers -- come off with this kind of counterfeit compassion. But the fact is, there's a more basic way to deal with this than get involved in the nanny state, although we do remember Milton Friedman's admonition, if you want less of something, tax it.
DOOCY: Exactly right.
HAYWORTH: In other words, the way they're trying to split the difference here, I think, loses the danger and the distinction of the rise of the nanny state and the effort to really try to reign in behaviors to the point where people lose their freedoms when there's a far more obvious prescription for success, check the citizenship of those who are getting taxpayers subsidized benefits.
DOOCY: Because that is a very large money -- very large figure on how much money it costs the state out there. All right, J.D. Hayworth, former republican congressman from Arizona, thank you very much for joining us today from Phoenix, sir. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 04/04/11]
AHCCCS Shortfall Is Actually Due To Expanded Eligiblity, Economic Recession
Arizona Daily Star: Budget Shortfalls Due To Expanded Eligiblity. An Arizona Daily Star article pointed out that the shortfall in the budget for the Arizona Health Care Cost System (AHCCCS), Arizona's Medicaid program, is in part due to a 2000 referendum requiring the state to provide benefits for state residents up to the full poverty level, or about three times the federally mandated eligibility line. From the Arizona Daily Star:
The federal government provides about $2 for every $1 the state spends in health care for the poor. But federal law requires states that take the money to provide care only for those making about one third of the federal poverty level, which now stands at about $18,300 a year for family of three.
In 2000, however, voters ordered the state to raise that to the full poverty level. The state's part of that increased cost was supposed to be paid, at least in part, from Arizona's share of a nationwide settlement with tobacco companies.
As it turned out, settlement revenues now total about $118 million a year; the additional annual cost to the state is running about $1.1 billion.
The federal government provides about $3 for every dollar of state funds. But Republican lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer concluded the state could not afford its $18 million share for that program either.
All that changed, however, when Congress enacted the health-care overhaul law, which eventually will provide extra cash to Arizona for health care and cover more people.
The problem comes in the short run. [Arizona Daily Star, 4/22/10]
Enrollment Grew By 259,000 During Economic Recession. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's State Health Facts website, AHCCCS enrollment during the economic recession grew from December of 2007 to December of 2009 by nearly 260,000. According to the Tucson Citizen, AHCCCS administrator Jeffrey Tegen attributed the rise to the economic downturn. From the Tucson Citizen:
AHCCCS' budget administrator, Jeffery Tegen, said in a memo distributed this week to Gov. Jan Brewer's budget staff and the Legislature that the increase is due mostly to "the economic downturn and subsequent job losses."
Tegen's memo says the increase will add $253 million of spending to the next state budget, which will cover the fiscal year starting July 1. That budget already faces a projected $3 billion shortfall. [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 4/4/11; Tucson Citizen, 5/8/09]
Loss Of Federal Stimulus Money Is Also Increasing AHCCCS Deficit. According to an editorial in The Arizona Republic, written by AHCCCS director Tom Betlach, "AHCCCS' deficit alone is approaching $1 billion" with the federal stimulus money ending. From The Arizona Republic:
Today, 1.35 million Arizonans are on AHCCCS, which covers every citizen up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level and is one of only a handful of state Medicaid programs that cover childless adults.
Despite reducing the budget by $2.2 billion and raising taxes by $1 billion per year, Arizona still faces a deficit. With the termination of federal stimulus dollars, AHCCCS' deficit alone is approaching $1 billion. [The Arizona Republic, 1/24/11]
Arizona's Medicaid System Specifically Bars Undocumented Workers And Legal Immigrants Who Have Resided In AZ Less Than Five Years
Proof Of Citizenship Status Required To Qualify For AHCCCS Benefits. AHCCCS only provides benefits to U.S. citizens or "qualified aliens." According to the AHCCCS eligibility manual, "to be eligible for AHCCCS Health Insurance, other than emergency services, a person must be a qualified alien." Qualified alien status is conferred on immigrants such as political refugees, those seeking asylum, or afghan and Iraqi special immigrants. All customers are required to prove immigration status before receiving AHCCCS benefits. [AHCCS Eligibility Guide, accessed 4/4/11]