Arizona Last State to Join CHIP Health Care Program

(Photo: Public Domain, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Public Domain, Creative Commons)

Arizona has rejoined a children’s health insurance program for low- and middle-income families to become the last state in the US to offer coverage for health care, speech therapy, dental care, and other medical services to families who do not qualify for Medicaid.

The state was informed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had passed Arizona’s program to reapprove enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program will cover children up to 18 whose families earn more than is allowed to qualify for Medicaid but who cannot afford private health insurance, writes Lenny Bernstein of The Washington Post.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 young people will be eligible for health coverage because of the change, according to state estimates. Arizona stopped its KidsCare health services in 2009 because of the recession, which was a particularly difficult time for the Grand Canyon State. The 2010 Affordable Health Care Act banned states from decreasing health coverage for children. The program was eliminated in 2014.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed into law a bill that restored admission to the program.

A Georgetown University study found that Arizona families who had to change from the KidsCare program to private health insurance paid more and received fewer advantages. At this same time, Congress was contemplating an end to funding by the federal government for CHIP, which covers over roughly 8 million youngsters

A spokesperson for the governor’s office, Daniel Scarpinato, said Arizona would not be required to pay anything to opt back into CHIP since the federal government pays for the program until certain limits are attained.

Vera Gruessner, reporting for Health Payer News, quoted Senate President Andy Biggs (R-District 12):

“What we’re talking about is a population that ObamaCare is already supposed to cover,” Biggs told the Associated Press earlier this year. “And when people say it’s free, it really isn’t free, is it, because it’s a taxpayer-funded program. So when we start talking about taxpayer-funded program, the question is it state taxes or is it federal taxes, but they’re all coming from our taxpayers any way you look at it.”

The eligibility manager at Tucson’s El Rio Community Health Center, Catalina Laborin, said she believes adding this health insurance back into the loop will remove a huge burden carried by families. If parents have to take their child to a hospital emergency room, not only are they worrying about that young one but they also have the stress of being faced with an exorbitant bill, writes Cynthia Washington for KOLD-TV.

She added that having a safety net allows parents to bring their children in to be seen by a doctor.

When kids are covered, as they will be by CHIP, their ability to do well in school increases and their health is improved. And, according to Medicaid and CHIP research, the gains continue and take the form of higher educational achievement, better health, and even higher earnings as adults.

CHIP covers children with special health care needs, as well. The programs pay for physical, speech, language, and occupational therapies, explains State of Reform.