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State lawmakers should expand KidsCare eligibility ASAP

A year into a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 16,000 Arizonans, the state legislature has repeatedly declined the opportunity to provide low-cost, comprehensive health coverage to tens of thousands of children. CAA’s new fact sheet explores why this measure is so important – and how many children would benefit.

In 2019, Arizona ranked 48th in the US for the rate of children’s health coverage. Latinx, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander children are more likely to be uninsured than their peers of other races and ethnicities, and coverage gains for children of color facilitated by the Affordable Care Act have been eroded significantly over the past four years.

Unsurprisingly, our state also has one of the lowest income eligibility thresholds for its Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP; known as KidsCare in Arizona). KidsCare covers children up to age 21 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Currently, a family of four earning up to 205% FPL ($53,004 per year) may qualify for KidsCare. For comparison, the national median upper income threshold is 255% FPL, or about $67,575 per year.

In 2019 (the last year for which we have comprehensive data), over 16,000 uninsured Arizona children currently lived in households earning slightly too much to qualify for KidsCare. The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably increased the number of uninsured Arizona children, and may have strained the finances of families with health coverage through their employers or the Health Care Marketplace.

At the same time, the state is receiving an influx of federal relief dollars. In state fiscal year 2020 alone, the state is anticipated to have saved $153 million in state funds earmarked for AHCCCS (which administers KidsCare).

HB2273 (Children’s health insurance program; eligibility), sponsored by Representative Kelli Butler (D-LD28) would have expanded income eligibility. This bill was never heard in committee. Subsequent attempts to insert this provision have failed to gain traction.

Lawmakers will have another opportunity to provide health coverage to thousands more Arizona children by including the expanded KidsCare eligibility in the state budget. We hope they do.

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