Tucson – Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today sent a letter to Arizona State Senate President Andy Biggs advising him that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has confirmed that reinstating Arizona’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as KidsCare, would not cost the state in 2017. Gijalva’s letter comes after Senator Biggs expressed concerns that reinstating the program could mean unforeseen expenses for the state in the next fiscal year.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Dear Senator Biggs,
I appreciate your work on behalf of the people of Arizona to develop a budget that adequately funds needed programs in our state. I am writing to address concerns you raised regarding funds available for Arizona’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as KidsCare.
Currently Arizona is the only state in the country without a functioning CHIP program. Since the 2010 enrollment freeze, a once fully functional program that served 46,000 kids now provides needed care to less than 1,000. As a result, Arizona ranks 49th in the nation for its rate of uninsured children, and the rate of uninsurance among the former KidsCare income eligibility range is a striking 16.5 percent.
Recently, you suggested that ending the enrollment freeze on KidsCare could pose a cost to the state, specifically in fiscal year 2017. However, in a letter from March 2016, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) states that: “federal matching funds would be available for all eligible expenditures associated with reopening enrollment in KidsCare for FY 2016 and FY 2017, including expenditures exceeding the CHIP allotment.” They go on to say: “Based on current amounts available for FY 2016 and FY 2017, CMS anticipates that contingency fund and/or redistribution payments would be sufficient to provide federal matching funds for any CHIP shortfall that may result from reopening KidsCare enrollment for these fiscal years, including expenditures eligible for the 100 percent EFMAP.” For your convenience the letter in its entirety is enclosed.
Ending the enrollment freeze on KidsCare is not only an economic win for the state, but a win for those families that are now forced to pay higher cost to afford insurance elsewhere. According to Georgetown University Center for Children and Families: “Children with significant health care needs will face substantially higher out-of-pocket costs in the marketplace, as well as limits on benefits, which will be especially difficult for lower income families who cannot afford to pay for non-covered services.”
Despite Marketplace plans and Medicaid, one in ten children in Arizona are uninsured. This reality is both an ethical and economic concern, as those without insurance are more likely to need care in an expensive emergency setting.
While the program will receive 100 percent federal coverage, this should not be a requirement to having a Children’s Health Insurance Program. Forgoing any amount of federal matching dollars harms the state economy, and a recent Grand Canyon Institute report found that under a worst case scenario, in which the state receives the normal matching rate, the total economic benefit to Arizona would still be around $60 million. Even before the Affordable Care Act passed and provided additional federal funding, operating a CHIP program was beneficial to our state. Ending the freeze on KidsCare will bring in a needed infusion of federal funding, and it is time for Arizona to enjoy the benefits that every other state receives.
Raúl M. Grijalva
Member of Congress