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AZ Legislature Reverses Course, Reinstates KidsCare

The Arizona Legislature reversed an earlier vote and reinstated the KidsCare health insurance program last week. (iStockphoto)
The Arizona Legislature reversed an earlier vote and reinstated the KidsCare health insurance program last week. (iStockphoto)
May 9, 2016

PHOENIX - Under intense political pressure from all directions, the Arizona Legislature reversed itself late last week and reinstated the state's Children's Health Insurance Program.

The KidsCare bill, which was signed immediately by Gov. Doug Ducey, passed when 14 Republicans in the House and five in the Senate crossed over to vote with Democrats shortly before the legislature adjourned.

Dr. Elizabeth McKenna, on the board of Arizona's chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says she believes this time around, lawmakers were voting their conscience instead of their party line.

"I think there were a lot of people, both in the House and Senate, that were for KidsCare," she says. "But they were being strong-armed by a very small few who were not letting them do the right thing."

Through the coming budget year, and mostly likely the next two, the federal government is paying all the costs of the program.

By reinstating KidsCare, McKenna says it will extend coverage to 30,000 children whose parents make too much for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health insurance.

McKenna, a pediatrician in suburban Phoenix, says when children are uninsured, they miss more school, their parents miss work to care for them, and they're often much sicker by the time she sees them.

She says national publicity over rejecting the program, often known as CHIP, probably changed some minds.

"For the whole nation to know that Arizona was the only state in the nation that doesn't have CHIP, I think the news spread across the nation when they did not approve it in the budget," says McKenna. "So, I think they really realized that the right thing was to help these kids."

McKenna and the pediatricians' group are part of a diverse coalition of more than 100 organizations and individuals led by the Children's Action Alliance, which worked the entire legislative session to support the KidsCare measure.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ