Ducey unveils backup plan for 23,000 Arizona children facing loss of KidsCare

Thousands of Arizona children could be left without health insurance if congress can't refund the program KidsCare.

Facing the possible cutoff of federal funds for the state's KidsCare program, Gov. Doug Ducey plans to pay for health insurance for 23,000 Arizona children by shifting money from another federal program, Ducey's top health care adviser said Tuesday.

"There's a lot of things that divide us -- taking care of these kids in this situation is something that should unite us," Ducey told reporters Tuesday after a Halloween visit with sick children at Phoenix Children's Hospital. "This is the responsibility of our Congress. The bill is in front of both chambers, let's have them do their job."

Congress failed to reauthorize the CHIP program, known as KidsCare in Arizona, before the Sept. 30 deadline. Arizona was awarded $21 million to keep the program going into mid-December.

But the Republican Congress is now consumed by passing a tax reform bill. Meantime, the KidsCare reauthorization, affecting 9 million children nationwide, has been held up by partisan squabbling.

Ducey had floated the idea of dipping into the state's rainy day fund to cover expenses for KidsCare, which is fully funded by the feds, along with patients' premiums.

Christina Corieri, a senior policy adviser to Ducey, said the governor's contingency plan would move money from a Medicaid program that covers a separate group of low-income children, into the KidsCare program, which provides health insurance for children whose parents are the so-called working poor.

The low-income children wouldn't see any change in their coverage, Corieri said.

Ducey signed a bill last year that restored KidsCare in Arizona after it was frozen six years earlier, during the Great Recession. Arizona had been the only state in the country not participating in the program.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said if Congress didn't act by the end of November, the contingency plan would likely be activated.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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