Yesterday, the Kaiser Family Foundation released its 50-state survey of Medicaid programs around the country and found that despite tight budgets, “nearly all states maintained or made targeted expansions or improvements in their Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) eligibility and enrollment rules in 2010.” “This stability in large part reflects the temporary fiscal relief for Medicaid provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) that was tied to requirements for states to maintain Medicaid coverage,” Kaiser concluded. Arizona — which has been criticized for cutting mental health programs and transplant coverage — was the only state to cut health insurance for children and one of two (along with New Jersey) to reduce services for low-income families.
The state has not enrolled any new children into its CHIP program since establishing an enrollment freeze on January 1, 2010, “saving $18 million to help balance last year’s budget. Enrollment has since shrunk almost in half, from 40,000 to an estimated 26,000 as of Oct. 1.” The state has also ended coverage for seven types of organ transplants in October 1, which has contributed to the deaths of at least two Arizonans and is leading transplant patients to leave the state.
In March, the Arizona legislature completely eliminated funding for KidsCare (the state’s CHIP program) to help close the state’s $5 billion budget gap. It restored funding several months later following the passage of health reform — which requires states that want to continue receiving federal health care funds to maintain eligibility in Medicaid and CHIP — but was allowed to retain its CHIP enrollment freeze throughout 2010 because it already was in effect and operational before the law went into effect.
Arizona has also reduced funding to the Department of Health Services by $36 million (37% of total budget), severely undermining its mental health programs. According to the Arizona Republic, “residents with mental illnesses who don’t qualify for the state Medicaid program are receiving “only basic doctor visits and generic medicine. People contemplating suicide will be directed to a crisis hotline, but the state will no longer pay for them to be hospitalized.”