While many aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are certainly controversial, a number of states have indeed made greater efforts to get health insurance coverage for some of the most vulnerable members of society. That includes children, at least in the state of Arizona, where legislators are now working on a bill that gets kids in low-income households health insurance they need.
Arizona is one of the states that actually expanded its Medicaid program under the ACA, but now lawmakers there are seeking to go a step further to better provide kids with all the coverage that they're going to require as they grow, according to a report from the Arizona Republic. The state has long had its KidsCare health insurance program specifically for low-income families, but enrollment has been frozen for more than half a decade as a result of budget cuts, and the program was ended altogether in 2014 thanks to the Medicaid expansion which, in some ways, rendered it redundant.
How big is the problem?
Now that the state is on much better financial ground than it was during and after the economic downturn, though, the House lawmakers are looking to open enrollment again, the report said. While the Medicaid expansion got about 26,000 kids covered following the shuttering of KidsCare, about 14,000 more were left vulnerable. That's because their parents made too much to qualify for Medicaid but perhaps not enough to get properly subsidized insurance through the federal Healthcare.gov exchanges, meaning that many often went without coverage, obviously through no fault of their own.
This is particularly true of previous KidsCare enrollees, of whom only about 750 were able to get insurance via the Medicaid expansion, the report said. That may leave a lot of kids in very precarious medical situations. This would be vital because recent data suggests that as many as 13.2 percent of kids in Arizona are uninsured, the highest rate for any of the 17 states examined.
What's in the law?
The legislation itself - House Bill 2309 - would restore KidsCare and grant eligibility for any family making between 138 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty line, the report said. Anyone earning less than that would still be covered under Medicaid.
And for those concerned about the price tag of the program, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Regina Cobb, the cost would be covered in large part by the recipients themselves, the report said. While those making less than 150 percent would only have to make small co-pays, those making more than that level would make larger co-pays in addition to paying nominal premiums.
That's good news for many economically disadvantaged families in Arizona, as it will help to get their kids back on a regular medical routine that can keep them healthy as they age. However, the more that health insurers themselves can do to make access easier for families, the better off all are likely to be.