This is a pretty big day for tens of thousands of kids all across our state. For the first time in six years, Arizona will begin taking applications for the KidsCare health insurance program. Coverage will begin in September.
KidsCare is Arizona’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. CHIP was created in 1997 with bipartisan support during the Clinton administration. Between 1997 and 2012, the uninsured rate for children in the U.S. fell by more than half, from 14 percent to the current rate of 6 percent.
Until now, Arizona has held the distinction of being the only state without an active CHIP program. The state also has the third-highest rate of uninsured children in the U.S., according to a study by the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown. Only Alaska and Texas have higher rates.
The Washington Post wrote, “Arizona is rejoining a children’s health insurance program for low and middle-income families, becoming the last state in the union to provide coverage for health care, dental care, speech therapy and other services to families who don’t qualify for Medicaid.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Arizona’s plan to allow new enrollment yesterday.
“Today’s approval is a step forward for the health of Arizona children in low-income families,” said Vikki Wachino, CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. “With Arizona’s decision, all states in the nation now provide CHIP coverage to any eligible child who applies. More children in Arizona will have access to coverage early in their lives, which helps kids grow into healthy adults and provides parents with the peace of mind that comes from their children having affordable coverage.”
Although federal money will support the program until 2017, the battle to reinstate the KidsCare was contentious. Opponents believe that our state will eventually be stuck with the bill if the feds stop funding KidsCare. But supporters insist the program will cover 30,000 to 40,000 kids who would otherwise be unable to access health insurance.
If you want more information on the KidsCare program, you can click here or call 1-855-HEA-PLUS (1-855-432-7587). The restoration of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was one of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association’s top priorities this year. Whether you agree or disagree – we want to hear from you. Generating dialogue and finding common ground is critical to our goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!