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AZ Legislature Says No to Restoring KidsCare Program

Backers of the KidsCare program rally in front of the State Capitol in April. The Arizona Legislature failed to renew the program. (Children's Action Alliance)
Backers of the KidsCare program rally in front of the State Capitol in April. The Arizona Legislature failed to renew the program. (Children's Action Alliance)
May 5, 2016

PHOENIX – The Arizona Legislature has failed to renew the KidsCare program, leaving more than 30,000 of the state's poorest children without access to basic health care.

Even though the federal government would have paid for the program through at least 2017, Republican leaders blocked it, saying they feared it would come with a price tag in future years.

Dana Naimark, director of the Children's Action Alliance, led a broad coalition of organizations supporting the program and says a small group of legislators with an extreme agenda held the state budget hostage over KidsCare.

"It was back room power plays that killed it,” she maintains. “There was no public debate. There was no consideration. The bill never got considered in the Senate. Republicans had already decided they were voting no."

After more than a week of closed-door negotiations, the Legislature passed a $9.6 billion budget early Wednesday morning.

Naimark says although KidsCare passed in the House on a bipartisan vote in March, a last minute motion this week to attach the program to the budget was voted down by Republicans along party lines.

With that, Arizona remains the only state in the country without an active children's health insurance program.

Naimark says that means the state's poorest children are out of luck.

"Again, Arizona children remain behind children in every other state in the country for absolutely no reason,” she points out. “Families are struggling, kids are going without checkups, without medication, without therapy, they are struggling in school. It hurts our entire state."

The Children's Action Alliance led a coalition of more than 100 groups from around the state, including those from health care, business, faith-based, women, children and families, education and community advocates.

Naimark says during the session, advocates sent hundreds of letters and made countless visits to legislators seeking support for KidsCare.


Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ