Originally Published: November 18, 2017 6:06 a.m.
Arizona voters decided in a state constitutional amendment in 1992 that any new taxes would need the approval of two-thirds of the state House and Senate before it could be enacted.
A lawyer for the conservative Goldwater Institute tried to overturn a fee that hospitals pay was really a tax, and since it did not garner a two-thirds approval in both chambers, should be stopped.
The health care for 400,000 Arizona residents depended on that answer.
The Arizona Supreme Court decided on Friday that the assessment on hospitals is not a tax, and is therefore legal.
It was the right decision.
A tax is something universal. It does not discriminate, if you earn money at a job in this nation, then the federal and most state governments will want a small portion of that for the services they provide all citizens.
Some people who earn a lot pay more, and some who don’t earn much pay less. If you really don’t earn a lot, then they will waive your tax. But you still have to file.
Everyone pays sales tax. If you own property, then you likely pay a property tax.
Attorney Christina Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute was trying to expand the definition of tax.
The fee in question is just paid for by one industry, it is not universal. The agency assessing the fee is not the state legislature, but the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which is the state’s Medicaid program.
Gov. Jan Brewer decided in 2013 to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid coverage in Arizona. That decision meant health care for an additional 400,000 people.
The federal government pays for that increased coverage, but to qualify for it, Arizona had to restore coverage to childless adults, which had been frozen in this state for a number of years to save money.
Brewer came up with the idea to charge hospitals to pay for that, and other, costs. Hospitals were in favor of the plan, because they would make money off of it. More patients for them equals more revenue.
So this was a win-win. More Arizonans received health care coverage and it didn’t cost taxpayers a penny. And the people paying for this, were actually happy to do so because it meant more revenue for them.
Some state legislators, however, saw a problem. They worried that the assessments could be used to circumvent the voters’ will on tax increases. And they saw a chance for political gain, because opposing Obamacare in any form was good for some votes.
The court has now ruled, and it was the correct ruling. A ruling the other way would have been devastating to government. Could they no longer be able to charge any fee for services?
Driver’s license? Business license? Hunting or fishing license?
Medicaid expansion in this state was a huge success, and it was done so without any help from the taxpayers. There was no problem, and doing nothing is the right solution.