Happy Birthday to the Children’s Health Insurance Program!
Today marks a special anniversary: the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is 25 years old. The program, known as “KidsCare” in Arizona, has established itself as a critical federal-state partnership to meet children’s health care needs.
Arizona hasn’t always embraced the program. In fact, for years Arizona was the only state in the US without an active CHIP. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t reaped its benefits.
Over the past 25 years, CHIP and Medicaid have sharply reduced the rate of uninsured children—in Arizona, the child uninsured rate dropped from 16% in 2008 to 9% in 2019, despite a lengthy KidsCare enrollment freeze.
KidsCare covers kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid (AHCCCS) but too little to afford private health insurance. Together with Medicaid (AHCCCS) and the Affordable Care Act, KidsCare works to provide no- or low-cost health coverage for kids - including doctor and dentist visits, immunizations, prescriptions, emergency care, and more. These programs work together to meet children’s health care needs and ensure that no one is left behind.
As we mark the anniversary of CHIP’s federal passage into law this week, we celebrate a bipartisan commitment to caring for our nation’s kids. We must renew this commitment and permanently fund CHIP so that states like Arizona can successfully and responsibly keep KidsCare running, and kids can get the care they need.
When the COVID-19 continuous coverage protections are lifted, thousands of children in Arizona are at risk of becoming uninsured. This will disproportionately affect BIPOC children, children living in rural Arizona, and – importantly – families who participate in KidsCare.
That’s why Children’s Action Alliance worked with state lawmakers to pass legislation protecting coverage for children who participate in our CHIP program during the 2022 Legislative session.
HB2551 – sponsored by Representative Regina Cobb – helps cut through the red tape and burdensome paperwork requirements. It will ensure that children who qualify for KidsCare can stay continuously covered for a full year – even if their household’s circumstances temporarily improve.
Looking ahead, Arizona can do more to help children thrive by removing barriers to enrollment in AHCCCS and KidsCare. We must:
- Make CHIP funding permanent at the federal level, so kids health care isn’t used as a political bargaining tool.
- Raise the income limit for KidsCare to at least the national median of 255% FPL.
- Remove monthly KidsCare premiums.
- End the 3 month wait period for KidsCare coverage.
- Expand coverage options for immigrant children.
- Ensure children who participate in AHCCCS are also guaranteed twelve months of continuous coverage.