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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Brewer favors big government to serve her ideology

Gov. Jan Brewer has apparently learned nothing from her last failed attempt to reform Arizona’s Medicaid program. Her newest proposal would impose an annual $50 surcharge on obese, childless adults who fail to follow a weight loss regimen outlined by their doctor.

Medical costs associated with obesity and other chronic diseases are supposedly draining Medicaid dry, which has blown a hole is the state’s budget. Brewer’s “”plumpness payment”” is part of a plan expected to fill a $510 million void in Arizona’s $1.1 billion budget shortfall. If approved by the Republican-led Legislature, it would be the first of its kind. Medicaid has never penalized its clients for being “”unhealthy.””

But for someone who says she supports “”small government,”” Brewer sure seems intent on expanding its role. Forcing Medicaid recipients to lose weight by threat of taxation isn’t a far cry from the health care reform bill’s mandate, which imposes a hefty annual fee on individuals who don’t purchase health insurance. In fact, the objectives of both measures are exactly the same. The imposed surcharge would presumably compensate for the medical care a patient receives at the state’s expense.

“”If you’re not going to … take some personal responsibility, and in turn that costs the state money, than you need to have some skin in the game,”” said Monica Coury, the assistant director of Arizona’s Medicaid program.

But just last year Brewer said such a policy would be “”wrong for Arizona.”” She was so opposed to “”Obamacare’s”” mandate that she joined 14 other governors in filing suit against the federal government.  

So what explains her sudden about-face? Why has the governor adopted a policy that she once condemned?

We’ve seen this blatant hypocrisy from Republican politicians before. They decry intrusive government and at the same time want government to tell its citizens how much they can weigh, who they can marry and what they can do with their reproductive organs. In actuality, Republicans love big government — as long as it suits their far-right ideology, that is.

From Brewer’s point of view, atop her lavish mansion in Glendale, recipients of government assistance are living like kings off their free health care and food stamps. Slapping them with a fine for being fat and lazy, as she sees it, will encourage them to “”pull themselves up by their boot straps,”” which will in turn save the state a few dollars.

But “”fat-taxing”” Medicaid patients, who on average make less than $9,000 a year, is a cruel and unusual way to balance a budget and incentivize personal responsibility. Poor people don’t always have the option of eating healthily. When you’re hungry and strapped for cash, you’re more likely to reach for a fattening Snickers bar than a box of multi-grain breakfast cereal.

But Brewer could care less about whether or not her diet-or-pay regime is feasible, humane or consistent with her view of “”Obamacare.”” Expanding the role of government is the only way to get those fat, good-for-nothing Medicaid recipients to “”take some personal responsibility.””


— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at

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