Enroll in KidsCare Arizona's Children|Photo by Children's Action Alliance

The Children’s Action Alliance urges parents to not let the ACA lawsuit discourage them from enrolling in the state’s CHIP program.

Arizona now has the third highest rate of uninsured children in the U.S., with an estimated 146,000 lacking healthcare coverage in the state.

According to a report released in October by Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the number of uninsured children in the state increased by 10% between 2016 and 2018. 

In fact, Arizona is one of 15 states to experience significant increases in the number and rate of uninsured. 

To battle this issue, local agencies like the Children’s Action Alliance, a nonprofit agency assisting Arizona’s children for 30 years, are encouraging parents who qualify for the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), also known as KidsCare, to enroll despite the current lawsuit threatening to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Federal funding through the ACA has helped keep the program functioning since 2016.

Currently, the program receives $98 million in federal funds, and $7.9 million from the state. 

KidsCare provides health coverage to almost 35,000 Arizona children from working-class families who earn too much to qualify for the state’s Medicaid program, or Arizona Health Care Containment System (AHCCCS), and cannot afford private health insurance.

“We are continuing to work with partners across Arizona to let working families know that they should consider enrolling their children in the program if they’re not already enrolled,” said Pati Urias, communications specialist with the CAA.

Earlier this year, the CoverKidsCoalition raised concerns about a provision in state law that automatically freezes KidsCare enrollment when federal funding drops below 100%. That was scheduled to take place on Oct. 1, 2019.

Ultimately, the CAA, Arizona partnering agencies, and lawmakers worked together on legislation to continue funding KidsCare for the 2019 Arizona legislative session, according to Urias.

Going into the session, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey publicly stated his support for the KidsCare program, despite his party’s efforts to repeal the ACA. However, a bill to remove the trigger failed to advance and the funding was stuck in an ongoing intraparty budget struggle.

By the end of the session, however, lawmakers managed to fund the program and safeguard it for now. 

“We were successful in getting the state legislature to remove that trigger, so it’s no longer a threat,” Urias said.

This is not the first time the program has faced such an obstacle. In 2010, Arizona became the only state in the nation without a CHIP program. 

“The state had frozen enrollment in the program weeks before the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, which included a provision that prohibited states from restricting Medicaid and CHIP eligibility or enrollment,” the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in 2016. Following the freeze, KidsCare enrollment dropped significantly, according to the AAP, and the program was dismantled. A temporary KidsCare II program was instituted in 2013, but it expired in January 2014.

After six years, KidsCare was reinstated thanks to federal funding under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

For agencies like the CAA and AAP, KidsCare is imperative to the future of Arizona’s children.

Urias said local partners would be meeting this week to discuss that future as well as the threat of the ACA being overturned. 

“When the lawsuit decision comes down, we’ll have a better idea on what we can do, but the important thing is to educate people to provide them with clear information so they know what to do,” Urias said. “The program is definitely an option for people and they should continue to seek assistance in enrolling their children in KidsCare if they are in need of coverage.”

Editor’s Note: This story was amended for clarity on how KidsCare is both state and federally funded through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.