By Matt Jewett, Children’s Action Alliance of Arizona
Not a lot of good news has come out of Arizona this
year. Amidst leading the country
in job losses, selling our state Capitol to raise money (we’re leasing it
back), and a divisive immigration debate gaining national attention, we also
became the first state ever to eliminate our highly successful Children’s
Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Fortunately, federal health reform passed just days after Governor
Brewer signed the bill eliminating KidsCare, but before the elimination had
taken effect. Since federal health
reform requires states to maintain their CHIP programs, Arizona would have been
out of compliance, and stood to lose the entire $7 billion a year we receive in
federal Medicaid money. As a
result, the legislature and Governor restored KidsCare before the legislature
adjourned. This reversal is a
lifeline for the nearly 34,000 children currently enrolled in KidsCare, who
will not be dumped from their health insurance on June 15 as previously
Children’s Action Alliance was active with our Bring Back
KidsCare, taking to the radio and
internet to convince Arizona’s voters and elected officials that KidsCare is a
smart investment that helps children grow up strong and thrive. This campaign showed that bringing back
KidsCare was not only smart in light of health reform, but also the right thing
to do. Unfortunately, a KidsCare
enrollment freeze has been in place since January 1, 2010. Enrollment has already fallen by more
than a quarter since the beginning of the year, and over 40,000 applications
have been submitted for KidsCare that have not been processed due to the
enrollment cap. It is estimated
that the majority of those children would be eligible for KidsCare if the
enrollment freeze was lifted (read our press release or see the
Arizona Republic story). Should the freeze continue, enrollment
will fall by more than half over the next year, and within five years, just 194
children would remain enrolled in KidsCare. And while national health reform will provide additional
help to families in 2014, four years is a lifetime for a child to wait.
The cost to open up KidsCare enrollment to all eligible
children is $11 million, or less than $2 a year for every resident of the
state. In a budget 800 times that
size, finding the money should not be difficult if our elected officials make
children’s health the same priority that voters do.
Re-hiring laid off employees at the Arizona Department of Revenue could lead to the collection of money already owed to the state, more than paying for KidsCare.
Children’s Action Alliance will keep up the pressure to
Bring Back KidsCare fully – so all children in our state can grow up healthy
and ready to succeed.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Guest Bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Children and Families.