TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Thousands more Arizona children could get health care coverage under Medicaid or the KidsCare program.
Nearly one million federal Affordable Care Act dollars are coming to Arizona to get eligible children signed up for coverage.
The announcement came during a conference call with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
"The grants we're announcing today are just the latest support we're offering in that effort, and that's what the Connect Kids to Coverage Challenge is all about. These awards will be used to help organizations hire new staff that can help families enroll their eligible children," Sebelius says.
El Rio Community Health Center is one of the 16 partners in four Arizona counties that will help look for eligible children to sign them up for Medicaid or KidsCare.
KidsCare is for uninsured children who come from low-income families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
In Arizona, Medicaid is known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or AHCCCS.
It's believed there are tens of thousands of children in the four Arizona counties who are not enrolled in AHCCCS or KidsCare even though they are eligible.
The grant is aimed at them.
"So we continue to try and find new places to find them and new ways to try and inform them so that they can be enrolled," says Michal Goforth, Executive Director of the Pima Community Access Program, or PCAP.
The Tucson-based PCAP is a private, non-profit health care organization.
The federal grants went to 41 organizations in 22 states and total $32 million.
PCAP was the only Arizona organization awarded one.
The money will be used to find and enroll children in Pima, Santa Cruz, Pinal and Maricopa Counties.
It also will be used to help keep eligible children from falling out of the programs.
"We will be training 600 community organizations in four counties to help us get the word out," Goforth says.
She says those community organization will include health care agencies, schools and faith-based groups.
PCAP also will make use of the grant as the Affordable Care Act opens up more coverage options in October.
"We're going to take the opportunity to use this grant to get the word out so people in our communities are going to be educated about the new health care options that are available to them and their families," Goforth says.
For so many families, having a safety net and the opportunity for their children to enjoy good health brings peace of mind.
Maria Varelas is raising her five-year-old granddaughter who has health issues.
"So I mean it is important because there's times I have to rush her to the emergency room in the middle of the night and, if we didn't have insurance, that would be very hard because we would be stuck with a very high medical bill for her," Varelas says.
The exact amount of the grant in Arizona is $999,920 to be used over a two-year period.
To see the list of grant awardees click here.