Monday, January 20, 2003

Doing My Bit for the Napolitano Honeymoon

Here's this week's East Valley Tribune column. I'm not sure how the Arizona program compares to the Maine plan now before the U.S. Supreme Court, but that's a topic for another day. The article may be my help for the honeymoon, but the headline (and the placement, with a drawing no less) is all the Tribune's. Interesting.

New governor's executive orders as just as legal as Bush's; GOP needs to work with her, not sue

East Valley Tribune, Jan. 19, 2003

The Arizona Legislature is having a tough time adjusting to their new reality. They’re used to a governor who, when she talked about her time in the mountains, meant the country club in Pinetop. But when the new governor talks about mountains, she means her climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

It’ll take some getting used to, apparently. Just as the DPS security detail is adapting to a somewhat more (ahem) active schedule, the Legislature will have to get used to having a governor with smarts, ideas, and the determination to accomplish them.

The immediate source of friction with the legislature is Gov. Janet Napolitano’s first-day executive order creating a prescription drug discount program through the state’s Medicaid program, AHCCCS. The program takes advantage of the state’s buying power as a huge purchaser of health care by negotiating volume discounts on drugs, available to seniors who pay $25 to join the program.

The plan could make prescription drugs available to participating seniors at 20 or 25 percent (or more) less than regular retail. AHCCCS negotiates with pharmaceutical suppliers anyway; they’ll just bargain for discounts for senior citizens as well as for low-income AHCCCS plan members. And it should cost the state nothing, with the annual $25 fee paying its costs.

You’d think this kind of proposal would warm the hearts of the flintiest conservative, with its voluntary nature, reliance on market forces, and zero net cost to the taxpayers. But while even my quite-flinty friends on The Tribune editorial page saluted Gov. Napolitano’s move, it’s given a severe case of heartburn to GOP legislative leaders.

The Republicans are upset because they believe that the governor can’t make this kind of policy by executive order. She’s usurping the Legislature’s prerogatives and given short-shrift to comity between co-equal branches of government, complained House GOP leader “Fast Eddie” Farnsworth.

Of course, these very same Republicans have absolutely, positively, and entirely no problem with President Bush enacting his “faith-based” initiative by executive order, because of the fundamental, vital, and principled distinction that, well, he’s a Republican and Gov. Napolitano is a Democrat.

A key GOP legislator is especially upset because he claims the Legislature considered such a program as part of the budget process last session, but was told by their attorneys that it would take legislation. While the Legislature historically has never listened to its lawyers unless the advice supports what they wanted to do anyway, this time, for some unrecorded reason, they dropped the idea.

They never sought a second opinion, and now had better get used to being legally outflanked. Not only does the new governor apparently have better lawyers than they do, but the governor herself is a better lawyer than their lawyers.

But leaving the attorneys aside for a moment, it’s an interesting admission. The GOP admits that the Legislature considered a good idea, but dropped it because it would require legislation. Well, isn’t legislation what the Legislature is supposed to do?

And it’s not like they ever run out of raw material down there, or have to wait for a new shipment of stock to arrive. Think about it: the Legislature couldn’t get it done because it would have taken legislation. Doesn’t make sense to me, either.

The Legislature is considering filing a lawsuit to block the discount prescription drug program. They claim there’s a principle involved, one that’s apparently more important than saving senior citizens money and making their health care more affordable.

They’re more than welcome to try to explain to their constituents exactly what is that vital and important principle that requires making older people pay more for their prescriptions.

No comments: