Grand Canyon Institute: restoring KidsCare an economic boost to Arizona

It is past time that Governor Ducey man up and do right right by Arizona’s children, and demand that the Senate vote and approve the KidsCare restoration bill HB 2309 as part of his budget. It is not only the morally correct thing to do, but it would give an economic boost to the state. And we all know that our Tea-Publican governor and legislature only care about money.

The Arizona Republic reports, Study: Expanding KidsCare would mean $75M jolt:

Pedi_ExamIf Arizona lawmakers decide to restore the KidsCare program during state-budget negotiations, it would deliver $75 million in economic benefits to Arizona next year as well as extend health coverage to 30,000 or more kids, a new report concludes.

The Grand Canyon Institute said in a report issued Wednesday that providing health-care coverage to low-income kids also would deliver long-term economic benefits with fewer high-school dropouts and more college graduates.

Executive Summary: Restoring KidsCare: Annual and Long-Term Benefits Far Exceed Cost to the State; read the Full Report (.pdf)

Legislative efforts to restore Arizona’s version of the Children’s Health Insurance Program have been at an impasse. House Bill 2309, which would allow Arizona to tap federal funding to restore the KidsCare program, passed the Arizona House on March 2. State Senate President Andy Biggs never allowed the bill to be heard in the Senate.

The deadline has passed for bills to be heard in a legislative committee hearing, but KidsCare backers are trying to restore the program through ongoing state-budget negotiations.

Biggs, R-Gilbert, remained steadfast in his opposition, raising questions about the program’s costs earlier this week.

“When people say it’s free, it really isn’t free, is it?” Biggs said. “Because it’s a taxpayer-funded program.”

Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday acknowledged that some legislators may push for KidsCare during budget talks. The governor has not advocated for KidsCare and has said his priority is to deliver a structurally balanced budget, but he added that he would remain open-minded if lawmakers proposed lifting the freeze during budget talks.

The Grand Canyon Institute report said restoring KidsCare would deliver an additional $40 million in direct funding in fiscal 2017 that would provide a $75 million economic jolt as money circulates in the state. The report also said that would provide an extra $2.6 million in state and local taxes.

The federal Children’s Health Insurance Program is funded through 2017, and the Affordable Care Act calls for funding the program through 2019, a two-year extension that Congress must authorize.

The report included a “worst-case” scenario should Congress cut or reduce funding for the program in 2018. That would result in a net cost of $27 million to Arizona, Grand Canyon Institute’s David Wells said.

But Wells noted that scenario assumes a significant federal budget cut, and he added that Arizona would maintain control over its KidsCare enrollment. HB 2309 would require the state’s Medicaid program director to halt enrollment and provide a 30-day termination notice to enrollees and contractors if the federal government halted funding.

“The state has complete fiscal control of the costs to manage this,” Wells said. “It makes a lot of fiscal sense for something that will help kids get insurance.”

In 2010, Arizona froze KidsCare enrollment as a budget-cutting measure following the Great Recession. The state created a temporary program, KidsCare II, that enrolled thousands of children in 2013. Kids were sent to the federal Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace or Medicaid expansion in 2014.

Families that earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level can get coverage through the state’s Medicaid program, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but less than twice the federal poverty level would be eligible for KidsCare.

The federal poverty level changes each year. In 2016, a family of three that earned between about $27,700 and $41,180 would be eligible for KidsCare.

Families who earn that much were sent to the federal marketplace, but advocates say many working-poor families can’t afford those subsidized plans because of cost-sharing requirements such as co-pays and deductibles.

As of April 1, a legacy version of KidsCare covered 665 children who enrolled in the program before 2010. Those children will be removed from the program when they become adults or when the families are no longer eligible.

Arizona is the only state in the nation that does not have an active version of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The state has the third highest rate of uninsured children, trailing only Alaska and Texas, according to research by Georgetown University.

What’s it going to be governor? Time to take a stand.

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