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Arizona's Huge Share of Kids Enrolled in Obamacare Is Not Necessarily a Good Thing

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In Arizona, 21 percent of the people receiving health insurance through the exchange established by Obamacare are children.

That's easily the nation's highest proportion of children getting insured through Obamacare, and on its face, it seems like a good thing -- kids are getting insured in a state with notoriously high levels of uninsured children. That's not exactly the case.

See also:
-Arizona Still Has High Rate of Uninsured Children, but That Rate Is Dropping

While 21 percent of the people enrolled through Obamacare in Arizona are children, that rate's just 6 percent nationwide.

Kaiser Health News, which is operated by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, has outlined a possible reason why: Arizona has been phasing out its Children's Health Insurance Program, known as KidsCare.

"Arizona was the first and only state to end its children's insurance program -- because its state legislature acted before the 2010 Affordable Care Act banned states from reducing children's health coverage," according to Kaiser's explainer.

The Children's Health Insurance Program, which is funded by the federal government and states, offers health insurance for children of low-income families who make too much to be eligible for Medicaid (for example, a family of four making between $33,000 and $48,000 a year).

Due to state funding cuts, KidsCare enrollment ended in January 2010, although there was a window for people to sign up their kids for a temporary version of the program, KidsCare II, which expired earlier this year.

Here's the explanation on the KidsCare II website (emphasis ours):

Notices were sent to about 23,000 families with income between 100-133% FPL who transitioned to Medicaid effective January 1, 2014. Notices were also sent to about 14,000 families with income over 133% FPL who will need to apply for coverage under the Federally Facilitated Marketplace where premium subsidies are available for eligible households. Regular KidsCare remains in effect with frozen enrollment. Just over 3,300 children on regular KidsCare were transitioned to Medicaid and about 2,600 children remain enrolled in the KidsCare program.

It doesn't say exactly how many children needed to transition to health insurance through the Obamacare exchange, but rather 14,000 families. Considering that around 25,000 Arizona children were enrolled through the Obamacare exchange, that might be your answer right there.

Kaiser tried to obtain this exact information from the state, but it wasn't available.

Meanwhile, Kaiser was analyzing Arizona as a "sneak peak" for what happens when the CHIP program goes away nationwide. Unless funding is authorized by Congress, the program would expire in fall 2015.

Kaiser cited a report released this week by the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, which found that Arizona's CHIP program generally provided better benefits at a better cost than comparable plans picked through the Obamacare exchange.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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