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Hospital tax to pay for Ariz. Medicaid growth

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 8:22 p.m.

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has built a political career in standing up to the federal government over everything from immigration to health care. So she surprised almost everyone when she announced last week that she not only plans to push for an expansion of the state's Medicaid program under the federal health care law — she plans to fund it by raising taxes.

A conservative Republican, Brewer is believed to be the first governor to publicly come up with a way to fund the controversial Medicaid expansion.

Her proposal to add about 300,000 low-income Arizonans to her state's Medicaid plan relies on funding from hospitals through a so-called provider tax. The idea is being used to fund some Medicaid plans in 39 states, but none has tapped it to pay for the federal expansion and many have at least some room to expand their hospital taxes.

The Medicaid expansion is intended to cover about half of the 30 million uninsured people expected to eventually gain coverage under President Obama's health care overhaul.

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