How Has Arizona’s CHIP Enrollment Freeze Impacted Kids? – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog


and Cathy Hope

The state of Arizona was hit especially hard by the
recession and responded by imposing the largest spending cuts in the state’s
history. Among these was a freeze in KidsCare, the state’s Children’s Health
Insurance Program (CHIP). Arizona remains the only state with an enrollment
freeze in place and a new report we just released with the Kaiser Commission on
Medicaid and the Uninsured highlights its impact on enrollment and families.

  • As of July 15th, over 100,000 children were on the
    waiting list for KidsCare coverage, which continues to grow at a rate of 10,000
    children per month.   
  • Since the freeze was put in place, enrollment in
    KidsCare has fallen by more than 60 percent from 46,886 in December 2009 to
    17,642 in July 2011. Many of these children were able to secure coverage
    through Medicaid as their family income declined.
  • Arizona estimated that the freeze would save the state
    $12.9 million in fiscal year 2011. At the same time, the state was expected to
    forego $41 million in federal matching funds as a result.

The KidsCare enrollment freeze has limited affordable
coverage options for families who may be losing jobs and employer-sponsored
coverage as well as created a new coverage gap for children moving off of
Medicaid due to increases in income.

Gaites Klein is just one of the children who may get
caught in the middle as a result of the freeze.  He was 12 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor,
fortunately, he was enrolled in KidsCare and able to get the surgery he needed
to remove it.  His mother Valarie had job that depended on the real estate industry and found herself unemployed when the recession hit. When her
unemployment benefits ran out, Gaites became eligible and was automatically enrolled in the
state’s Medicaid program. However, the freeze in KidsCare has created a
catch-22 for the Klein family – if Valarie finds work and earns too much for
Gaites to continue to receive coverage through Medicaid, she will be unable to
re-enroll him in KidsCare. Valarie would love to return to work but is
concerned about losing the security of knowing her son’s high cost medical
needs will be met.

Gaites himself recognizes the importance of his health
coverage, noting:

 “Health can
change in a split second. It can change in a car accident, sports injury or
unpreventable health condition. For me, I went into an MRI as a healthy child
without any physical problems before in my life other than a couple of recent
migraines and came out as a brain tumor victim.  I am still not well. I suffer every day with the loss of all
hormones and have to take quite expensive hormone replacement medication for
the rest of my days I am allotted. If I don’t have the proper insurance to pay
for my medications, I could possibly die.”

Will other states follow Arizona on this misguided
path?  Under the stability
in the Affordable Care Act, it appears
that other states are currently prevented from implementing enrollment freezes
or caps. Without this protection, more families could find themselves without
affordable coverage options for their children. 

(Note: Thanks to Matt Jewett with the Children’s Action Alliance for his help connecting us with Arizona families. )

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