The Benefits of Restoring KidsCare for Arizona’s Children and Families

Photo: Children’s Action Alliance facebook page

All children deserve the opportunity to grow up healthy and thrive, and access to quality, affordable health coverage is critical to making that happen. Research shows that children with health coverage have greater academic success and increased economic opportunities as adults. However, for too many children in Arizona, this opportunity is out of reach. Arizona is the only state in the country without an active Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as KidsCare in Arizona, a key coverage option for low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but may not be able to afford coverage in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

Increasing opportunities for health coverage in Arizona is particularly important for Latino children. With one out of eight Latino children in Arizona uninsured, or 89,000 children, Arizona has the fourth-highest number of uninsured Latino children in the country, behind only California, Texas, and Florida. Programs like KidsCare are especially meaningful for Latino children and their families. A recent survey of CHIP enrollment numbers in 10 states found that Latino children accounted for more than half of enrollees. In neighboring Nevada, which recently leapfrogged Arizona in the children’s health insurance rankings, more than 75 percent of CHIP enrollees are Latino.

Boy with thermometer croppedThe good news is that Arizona policymakers can restore KidsCare and provide access to coverage for thousands of kids, all without costing the state a single dime. In fact, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System estimates that restoring KidsCare would provide between 30,000 and 40,000 children with access to coverage with zero fiscal impact on the state. Given their overall participation level in CHIP nationwide, Latino children would likely stand to gain from such a move.

By restoring KidsCare, Arizona can also leverage its previous decision to expand Medicaid for low-income adults and increase opportunities for more family members to be insured. Between 2013 and 2014, the Latino child uninsurance rate declined by 22.6 percent in states that expanded Medicaid, like Arizona, compared to a 7.6 percent decline in states that did not. However, Arizona’s Latino child uninsurance rate only declined by 15.4 percent during this period, perhaps due to the state’s decision to freeze KidsCare. Restoring KidsCare could help the state realize the same coverage gains for Latino children as other states that have expanded their Medicaid programs.

Arizona policymakers have a key opportunity in their hands. Restoring KidsCare would give children in Arizona the same chance to get insured as children in every other state in the country, while making a critical investment in the health and well-being of the next generation of Arizonans.

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