We’ve written before about Arizona’s response to
the recession–substantial budget cuts and the only enrollment freeze in the
nation in its CHIP program, KidsCare. Instituted almost two years ago, there
are now 129,000 kids on the waiting list for access to affordable health
A new (but somewhat familiar) proposal has
emerged to provide coverage to a small share (about 19,000) of these children.
While efforts to ease the burden on these families are encouraging, they
certainly don’t go far enough to address the larger problem.
Three hospitals have banded together to pony up $60
million a year for the next two years to help pay for care for those without
coverage. In return, Medicaid funding will increase $114 million to help
finance that care. There’s a stipulation, however, from CMS that requires
some of those funds go towards the KidsCare program. So, the hospitals are
going to throw in another $10.7 million (which will also be matched by CMS) to
provide coverage to some children on the waiting list.
While this will make a dent in the waiting list and
certainly help thousands of families, it raises questions about the strategy:
If health care providers step in with a match does it remove the state from its
responsibility and commitment to cover kids and help families who need it most?
The question is not new, but it comes up again as
officials look to help at least some struggling families now. The risk –
and ultimate question in the long run – is setting up a system that allows the
state to shirk its responsibility and pass the buck onto hospitals. Meanwhile,
all other states, including those also in dire fiscal shape, have found ways to
maintain their commitment to children and families. Arizona, however,
enacted new corporate tax cuts that will cost the state nearly double the amount necessary to fully
lift the freeze in 2012. And now they’re turning to the hospitals to address