15,000 Arizona kids lose health care

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - KidsCare II expires at midnight, meaning health insurance expires for families who have been paying $10 to $50 a month to cover their children.

So far, there has not been a cry from state lawmakers to fix the problem.

"It's an embarrassment," says Dr. Dan Derksen from the University of Arizona Rural Health Care Program. "The state is third to the last in the percentage of children who are insured."

The KidsCare program was frozen by an executive order from the Governor in 2010 during the height of the budget crunch.

It saved the state about $13 million.

"But that crisis is over," says Derksen. "This is something that's within our control."

Derksen says the state could cover the children for $10 million to $12 million.

"We also get a federal match of $3 for every dollar we spend," he says.

The state would make money, he contends by paying for the program to insure the kids.

It's also thought the hospitals and taxpayers may have to cover $54 million in uncompensated care.

"We are the only state in the country which is eliminating our children's health program," says David Higuera, the Director of the Children's Action Alliance in Southern Arizona. "It's not a D or an R or an Obama issue. It's just a matter of right and wrong."

Arizona lawmakers thought the state would cover the kids when it expanded Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act.

But the ACA only covers up to 138% of the poverty level.

KidsCare II covered up to 200%.

That gap contains the 15,000 kids who will lose their coverage.

The state will not notify parents their children are not covered anymore.

Most will find out only when the go to the doctor or hospital for care.

"Let's say they have an unfortunate accident and need emergency care and need surgery, of god forbid, develops cancer," says Dr. Derksen. "The suddenly learn they don't have health insurance, those bills go to families."

Because health emergencies remain the leading cause of bankruptcies he says, the final tally may fall on hospitals in uncompensated care.

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