Thursday, September 8, 2011

Arizona's Kids Care program sees enrollment numbers plummet

Arizona's KidsCare program, a state version of the federally sponsored Children's Health Insurance Program, has seen enrollment numbers in August drop to the lowest level since 1999. Enrollment went from a peak of 66,317 in May 2008 to 16,662 in August, while demand for the program is strong. In July, more than 100,000 children were on the waiting list for KidsCare.

More than half of the decline has come since Jan. 1, 2010, when the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System froze enrollment in KidsCare in response to a lack of funding. State lawmakers have repeatedly cut funding for KidsCare in recent years, from more than $100 million in fiscal 2009 to $36 million this year, fiscal 2012. KidsCare is a premium-based health-care program that covers children whose family income is between one and two times the poverty level, currently $22,350 per year for a family of four. Below that level, a family qualifies for Medicaid.

The freeze raised concerns at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about Arizona's ability to retain children in the program. Since the freeze was enacted, nearly 30,000 children have been dropped. State officials attribute most of the decline to long-standing factors that would have occurred with or without an enrollment freeze, including some families qualifying for Medicaid and others failing to renew their eligibility or pay their premiums

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