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April 20th, 2012
Grijalva Hails Federal Decision to Exempt Tribes From Medicaid Cuts, Cover Uncompensated Care, Provide Children Health Coverage

Tucson, Ariz. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today hailed the Obama administration’s recent decision to approve Arizona’s last outstanding proposals for how to run the state Medicaid program. The administration, through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), approved the creation of a new pool of money to cover the cost of unpaid-for emergency room care and finalized a rule exempting Native American tribes from otherwise sweeping state-level health care cuts.

In approving the funding pool portion of the waiver, CMS negotiated for the state to cover approximately 20,000 uncovered children who have been on a waiting list to receive care because of the enrollment freeze Gov. Jan Brewer has enforced on the state KidsCare program since Jan. 2010.The state will create a Safety Care Net Pool to fund a new KidsCare II program to cover the cost of those children, as well as cover the cost of other uncompensated health care provided to lower income Arizonans.

The decision caps a months-long process to renew Arizona’s Medicaid waiver, which the state uses to operate portions of its Medicaid program. The state’s new waiver request included proposals – which CMS has granted – to cut services and greatly reduce the number of people covered.

Grijalva had led opposition to the overall waiver request. He said today that although the economic and health consequences of eliminating coverage for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans will remain, “CMS worked hard to preserve a certain level of care for children and sovereign Tribes and clearly understood the need for sufficient funding, and I thank the administration for doing what it could to limit the damage to our state.”

Grijalva has long called for KidsCare to be reinstated. Arizona last year ranked 49th in quality of children’s health care nationwide.

“This new decision is a step in the right direction, but there’s a lot more work to do,” Grijalva said. “The freeze on KidsCare enrollment was never justified. It’s hurting tens of thousands of families all over the state and we should lift it immediately.”

Grijalva had worked to ensure Tribes would be protected from Brewer’s cuts. In a letter to CMS on Dec 11, 2011, he wrote, “The state’s decision to terminate health coverage should not impact the native populations and this exemption is the only way to ensure that does not happen.”

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