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Arizona Lawmakers Continue KidsCare Funding Despite Extra Cost

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Monday, June 3, 2019   

PHOENIX – Children's advocates say funding in the 2020 state budget for the Children's Health Insurance Program is a major win for Arizona children.

There was concern going into the recent legislative session that when Arizona was required to kick in a portion of the cost, some conservative lawmakers might pull their support from the program.

Siman Qaasim, director of health policy with the Children's Action Alliance, says the success of KidsCare, as CHIP is called in Arizona, kept most lawmakers on board despite the extra expense.

"The majority of the Legislature was on board with KidsCare,” Qaasim states. “Even if they weren't huge believers in public insurance, they saw that deal: $98 million federal for $7.9 million state. This is a great investment. Let's do this."

Qaasim adds that the legislature also voted to remove trigger language from the CHIP statute that allowed lawmakers to freeze or close the program if the federal contribution fell below 100 percent.

The state had frozen the program in 2010 during the Great Recession, and the trigger language was part of the deal to restore CHIP in 2016.

Qaasim says since the program was restored, Arizona children have been getting more than routine care under CHIP. She says thousands have received treatment for cancer, for mental health, for autism and more.

"Families who are participating in KidsCare are taking their kids to preventative visits, to dental visits,” she states. “I mean this is just such an investment for working families. And we have some data now to confirm that."

Qaasim says CHIP enrollment has remained stable since it was restored in Arizona.

"We have almost 35,000 children enrolled across the state and that number grows every month,” she points out. “And so, I think that's what's keeping us from following some of our other states off an unfortunate cliff.”

Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in Arizona dropped by what Qaasim calls a "statistically insignificant" 1.6% between 2017 and 2018, according to a recent Georgetown University Health Policy Institute study.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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