by Joe Fu, Children’s Action Alliance
For the fifth year in a row, Arizona had the third highest child uninsured rate in the nation. In 2014, 10% of Arizona’s children were uninsured compared to about 6% nationally, according to a new report we released this week with Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.
This year was supposed to be different as Arizona was poised to make major progress under the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. With the adoption of the Medicaid expansion option, the state did see coverage improvements that mirrored national trends. Unfortunately, Arizona was driving with the brakes on. The continued freeze of the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), KidsCare, slowed down our progress and prevented Arizona from realizing more significant coverage gains for children. Arizona continues to hold the dubious distinction as the only state in the nation without a functioning CHIP program.
Why is Arizona the only state without an active CHIP and how can we restore it?
To understand Arizona’s unusual situation, we have to look back at 2010 just before the Affordable Care Act was enacted. Arizona’s leaders “temporarily” froze our CHIP plan, known as KidsCare, just before the ACA was signed into law. Then-Governor Jan Brewer cited state budget shortfalls due to the recession as the reason for the “temporary” freeze. Nearly six years later, that “temporary” freeze is still in place and the state budget can no longer be used as a justification for keeping children out of KidsCare. The state would receive 100% federal financing to reinstate KidsCare at no cost to the state budget thanks to the increased matching rate that was put in place when CHIP was reauthorized last year. There is no reason to continue to allow Arizona children to fall between the cracks. Accepting full federal funding to lift the freeze on KidsCare would help Arizona dramatically reduce the number of uninsured kids in Arizona and help create a brighter future for our state and our children.
Health coverage during childhood helps children achieve academically and grow up to become healthier more economic successful adults. If Arizona continues to allow children to fall through the cracks, our state will not keep up with neighboring states. Nevada and Colorado were the two top performers nationally in reducing their child uninsured rates and are leaving Arizona behind. Arizona can catch up with our neighbors and improve the health and well-being of children by lifting the freeze on KidsCare.
Health coverage is essential for the future educational and economic well-being of Arizona kids. We simply cannot afford to allow any more Arizona children to fall through the cracks.