How Did Arizona Reach a Bipartisan Agreement to Re-open KidsCare?

By Joe Fu, Children’s Action Alliance of Arizona

After six years without KidsCare, Arizona will no longer be the only state in the country without a functioning Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) program. With bipartisan support, Arizona’s Legislature pushed through a measure to reinstate KidsCare in the final moments of the session. On May 6, 2016, Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law, lifting the freeze on KidsCare. An estimated 30,000 Arizona children are anticipated to enroll in the first year.

In a multiyear effort, children’s health advocates and partners came together under the leadership of the Cover Kids Coalition convened by Children’s Action Alliance to work on restoring Arizona’s CHIP program. Our goal was to convince Gov. Ducey and the Arizona Legislature to lift the freeze on KidsCare and reopen the door to coverage for 30,000 Arizona children. The win was the result of strong health advocacy across the state, centered on a campaign that included coalition building, policy analysis, communications, and legislative outreach and organizing.

Advocates built a coalition with a broad base of support across a diverse range of stakeholders including the state chapters of the Academy of Pediatrics, AARP and March of Dimes, hospitals and hospital associations, health and human service providers, Chambers of Commerce, faith-based and community-based organizations.

With national partners such as Georgetown University CCF, advocates conducted thoughtful analysis of the benefits of KidsCare and leveraged this analysis to articulate and educate the community about the need for KidsCare. We also used this evidence base as a way to identify, educate and support policymakers and media champions who were invested in the issue.

The coalition built up a base of support through paid and earned media, a strong media presence focusing on real life stories of affected children and families . Members of the coalition also activated grassroots supporters through a variety of strategies that helped policymakers understand just how important this issue was to their constituents.

Equally important was the strong financial incentive to restore KidsCare. Due to the Affordable Care Act, AZ is able to qualify for 100% federal funding, a key reason why KidsCare received strong bipartisan support. This cannot be understated since restoration of KidsCare was tied to language in state statute that directs the state Medicaid agency to freeze enrollment if the state incurs any cost to the state budget.

We are proud of the work of the coalition and thankful for our many partners and the reliable research and analysis by Georgetown University CCF throughout this journey. This is a win not just for Arizona, but for all the children and families across the country relying on CHIP for affordable, high quality health care.