Advocates for children's health care are breathing a little easier after Republican lawmakers released a budget draft on April 27 that avoided funding reductions to state-run health care programs for children in low-income families.
"We are certainly pleased to see that KidsCare funding will remain for kids," said Dana Naimark, president and CEO of Children's Action Alliance. "I think lawmakers heard the message from citizens and business that KidsCare is needed for the overall health of the community."
A budget draft released by Republicans last month called for the elimination of KidsCare, a federally subsidized program that provides health care for approximately 60,000 children. The program receives $3 from the federal government for every $1 provided by the state.
It was not the first time lawmakers had considered eliminating the decade-old program. Proposals released in January designed to balance the budget in fiscal 2009 also would have terminated KidsCare. The program was saved at that time because lawmakers were advised the cuts would jeopardize the state's eligibility to receive federal stimulus dollars.
Turns out, the advice was incorrect. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services later indicated alterations to KidsCare programs would not disqualify states from receiving Medicaid money.
After receiving a thumbs-up from the feds, lawmakers revived the idea of eliminating KidsCare as part of the fiscal 2010 budget.
The elimination of KidsCare was expected to save the state $30 million in service and administrative costs in the upcoming year. But Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills, said Republican leadership realized in the days prior to releasing the budget draft that a majority of the rank-and-file members wanted to continue the program.
KidsCare Parents, a program that provides care for 8,640 parents of children enrolled in KidsCare, is still slated for cuts in fiscal 2010. The latest proposal would eliminate the program and its entire budget of $7.3 million.
"We understand that children need health care," Kavanagh said. "But their parents can go and get jobs and get health care that way."