Monday, April 16, 2012

House Democrats to Gov. and Republicans: Restore KidsCare now, protect Arizona children

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats continue to advocate restoring funding for KidsCare so thousands of Arizona children can again receive health care coverage.

House Democrats recently proposed a realistic and responsible budget that allocates $6.5 million for KidsCare. The Republican and governor’s budget fail to fund KidsCare. That failure has kept thousands of children from receiving medical coverage since 2010.

“Restoring KidsCare funding must be a priority,” Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), said. “Arizona is the only state in the country that has not lifted the freeze on the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Before the KidsCare freeze in Jan. 2010, there were more than 45,000 children enrolled in the program. Now there are fewer than 13,000 children in the program. Many of the children removed from the program had no alternative health care coverage.

“Overall, the Democratic Budget’s $6.5 million investment in this program has the long-term payoff of having healthier children and a stronger health care system,” Tovar said.

Earlier this month the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved a state request to establish a new health care coverage program for children called Safety Net Care Pool. A partnership between the state, UA Health Network, Maricopa Integrated Health Systems and Phoenix Children’s Hospital allows the state to use municipal and federal money to expand KidsCare. This program will provide coverage for an additional 21,200 children.

This program also will provide funding to supplement costs of uncompensated care, the unreimbursed or uncollectable costs hospitals incur for providing health care services to patients who cannot or will not pay. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association estimates that Arizona hospitals provided $412 million of uncompensated care in 2010. Uninsured adults and children, who still need health care, contribute to this total. This directly impacts hospital operations; increases government costs and raises health insurance premiums. The U.S. Censure Bureau reported that Arizona has the fifth highest rate of uninsured people in the country, with nearly 1.3 million people living without health care coverage. There are about 281,000 children in Arizona without health care coverage.

“We must make health care accessible for children,” Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), said. “KidsCare is a program that provides preventative care and treats children’s illnesses early avoiding uncompensated hospitalizations and costly emergency room visits.”

Meyer is an emergency medicine physician and says that people often will forgo preventative care if it is too expensive.

“This jeopardizes personal health while creating extra strain on the system,” he said. “If people wait until they are very ill to seek medical help they face increased costs of care and risks to their health. We must find a solution and the $6.5 million investment in KidsCare is a great start."


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