Arizona has joined the 49 other states that offer a federal health insurance program for low-income children after backers of the plan pushed it through the state Legislature earlier this month and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law.
Known as KidsCare, the state’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program had been frozen since 2010, when lawmakers closed it because of a state budget crunch. It’s expected to provide insurance to 30,000 children whose parents earn between 138% and 200% of the federal poverty line, at no cost to the state, at least through 2017.
The battle to restore the program was one of the most contentious of the legislative session. Ducey had remained uncommitted to the legislation despite increasing pressure from many in his own party.
Republican opponents said low-income families would become dependent on handouts if the program was restored. They said the Affordable Care Act was supposed to cover those families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and rejected supporters’ argument that the federal government is paying the entire cost, noting the large federal deficit.
But state Sen. Bob Worsley, one of five Senate Republicans who backed the measure, said it was important to ensure that children can get medical care.
“These are children who need healthcare, who are in the most-needy situation,” Worsley said. “And at least currently, this is not costing us anything here in the state. And so I think it made sense, and I was passionate about making sure we got it for those sick kids.”
In the end, the bill’s supporters used procedural maneuvers to get the plan passed, tacking it onto a bill in the House and then circumventing Republican state Senate President Andy Biggs, who has blocked the legislation since March because he opposes the federal program.