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Arizona Lawmaker Plans To Reinstate Child Health Insurance Program

Arizona is the only state in the country that isn’t operating a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). One state lawmaker plans to change that. She is introducing a bill to end the six-year freeze on the program. 

KidsCare, as it’s called in Arizona, is for children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance on their own. That’s between $27,000 and $40,000 for a family of three.

Arizona has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country with 160,000 children uninsured. Pulling from her experience as a dentist of more than 20 years, Representative Regina Cobb said kids without insurance have noticeably worse health. 

“Rampant decay, cavities,” Cobb said, “It was unbelievable how much more work I had to do with those children to get them up to the same level that I have my other children at in my practice.”  

If this insurance program is re-activated, between 30,000 and 40,000 kids are expected to be enrolled. Because of legislation passed last October, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost at least through 2017. 

According a report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, Nevada made significant gains in children’s coverage in 2014. Arizona’s neighbor previously had a higher population of uninsured kids, but the report attributes Nevada’s improvement to its CHIP program 

The center’s director, Joan Alker, said “We know from many years of research having insurance for children is a good thing, not only for their health, but it also improves their educational outcomes and ultimately their success as they grow up and become workers and taxpayers.”   

Alker said this program has historically garnered bipartisan support.

Alexandra Olgin was a Senior Field Correspondent at KJZZ from 2013 to 2016.