A Victory for Children’s Health in Arizona

12973164_10153601388876247_1216544096698163255_oLast week, a bipartisan effort in the Arizona state legislature secured passage of legislation to unfreeze KidsCare, the state’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program. In doing so, Democrats and Republicans came together to restore a critical program that will provide thousands of children with the opportunity and the ability to live a healthy life.

This is a big win for children and families across the state. With the restoration of KidsCare, children living in families who earn a little too much to qualify for Medicaid, but still lack affordable coverage options through the private market, now have access to health coverage. The state’s Medicaid agency estimates that the restoration of KidsCare will provide between 30,000 and 40,000 children with affordable health coverage specifically designed for kids.

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The Benefits of Restoring KidsCare for Arizona’s Children and Families

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Photo: Children’s Action Alliance facebook page

All children deserve the opportunity to grow up healthy and thrive, and access to quality, affordable health coverage is critical to making that happen. Research shows that children with health coverage have greater academic success and increased economic opportunities as adults. However, for too many children in Arizona, this opportunity is out of reach. Arizona is the only state in the country without an active Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as KidsCare in Arizona, a key coverage option for low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but may not be able to afford coverage in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

Increasing opportunities for health coverage in Arizona is particularly important for Latino children. With one out of eight Latino children in Arizona uninsured, or 89,000 children, Arizona has the fourth-highest number of uninsured Latino children in the country, behind only California, Texas, and Florida. Programs like KidsCare are especially meaningful for Latino children and their families. A recent survey of CHIP enrollment numbers in 10 states found that Latino children accounted for more than half of enrollees. In neighboring Nevada, which recently leapfrogged Arizona in the children’s health insurance rankings, more than 75 percent of CHIP enrollees are Latino.

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Five Things Immigrant and Mixed-Status Families Should Know about Enrolling in the ACA

AKA-RegistrationAs open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gets underway, we know there are people eligible for coverage who remain uninsured and are looking for information and resources to understand their options and get covered.

Immigrants and those living in mixed-status families face unique circumstances and may need additional guidance on how to get coverage for themselves and their loved ones. The good news is that there are resources available to help, and if you or someone you know faced challenges when trying to enroll, we encourage you to return as improvements have been made to the process. Enrollment is now open at healthcare.gov and cuidadodesalud.gov through January 31, 2016.

Here are five things immigrant and mixed-status families—and those assisting them—should know about enrolling in coverage under the ACA:

  1. Immigration information provided on the health application will be used only to verify eligibility for coverage. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stated it will not use this information for immigration enforcement purposes.
  1. Signing up for insurance through the ACA, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program does not make someone a “public charge.” The one exception is for people receiving long-term care in an institution at government expense.
  1. While those without an eligible immigration status cannot get coverage through the ACA, they can apply on behalf of their eligible dependents. An undocumented parent, for example, can apply on behalf of an eligible child. Those who are not applying for coverage for themselves will not be asked if they have an eligible immigration status.
  1. A variety of immigration documents can be used to verify immigration status on the health application. Having this information readily available will help the enrollment process.
  1. Free, in-person assistance is available to help those applying. For information on assistance in your area, visit healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

For coverage that begins on January 1, the deadline to enroll is December 15. The opportunity to get covered, however, continues through January 31, 2016. About four million Latinos have already gained health insurance under the ACA—we urge everyone who is eligible to apply!

CHIPping Away at the Number of Uninsured Kids

By Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst, NCLR

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Last week, President Obama signed into law H.R.2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation that reauthorizes funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), among other things. Since its creation in 1997, CHIP has played a critical role in reducing the number of uninsured children nationwide. According to a Government Accountability Office report, since CHIP began, the percentage of uninsured children has decreased by half, from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 6.6 percent in the first three months of 2014.The same report notes that when compared to uninsured children, CHIP enrollees had better access to care, including preventive care, and had comparable access to care when compared to children with private insurance.

NCLR has been a longstanding advocate of quality, affordable, and accessible health coverage for all and we recognize that by investing in programs like CHIP, we are making a critical investment in the future of the country. CHIP has been a particularly important lifeline for Hispanic children, who are more likely to be covered by the program than by private insurance. A recent evaluation of CHIP highlighted that in the 10 states examined, more than half of the children enrolled were Hispanic. But given today’s climate, just because a program is working doesn’t mean it will avoid being the centerpiece of a political showdown. Luckily, Congress decided that protecting our children’s health and well-being is something that we can all agree upon. And while we would have liked to have seen CHIP extended for four years instead of two, maintaining funding for a program that has been an essential coverage pathway for so many children, particularly Latino children, is certainly a win.

HEALTH-child-getting-ear-checked_1However, the work is not done. Now that we know the program’s funding is secure, we need to ensure those who are eligible are enrolled. Latino children continue to be disproportionately uninsured. In fact, they are 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured compared to all children. However, programs such as CHIP present an opportunity to further reduce this disparity. According to a report NCLR released last fall with Georgetown University, 66.1 percent of uninsured Hispanic children in the United States—or 1.3 million Hispanic children—were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled in 2012. Outreach to eligible families, particularly Latinos, is critical to increasing awareness of CHIP, its benefits, and the fact that unlike the ACA open enrollment period, enrollment in programs like CHIP and Medicaid occurs throughout the year.

We applaud Congress for exemplifying how to solve problems by working together and President Obama for acting swiftly to sign the bill into law. Now let’s make sure that every child not only has the opportunity for coverage, but is enrolled. To learn more about coverage opportunities in your state, go to InsureKidsNow.gov or call 1-877-Kids-Now.

Five Things Immigrant and Mixed-Status Families Should Know about Enrolling in the ACA

For many consumers, the 2015 open enrollment experience has been smoother than last year. For example, the website glitches that challenged many last year have been reduced, and a cleaner, more streamlined website has been developed. However, despite improvements, we are aware that some groups may still face unique enrollment challenges, particularly immigrants and those living in mixed-status families. As supporters of the ACA, NCLR will continue our efforts to ensure the law is working for consumers and that those who are eligible and legally required to do so have the information they need to enroll.

Here are 5 things for immigrant and mixed-status family consumers and those assisting them to know about enrolling under the ACA:

  1. Immigration information provided on the health application is only used to verify eligibility, not for immigration enforcement purposes.
  2. Signing up for insurance coverage through the ACA, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program does not make someone a “public charge.” The one exception is for people receiving long-term care in an institution at government expense.
  3. While those without an eligible immigration status cannot get coverage through the ACA, they can apply on behalf of their eligible dependents. For example, an undocumented parent can apply on behalf of an eligible child.
  4. A variety of immigration documents can be used to verify immigration status on the health application.
  5. Free, in-person assistance is available to those applying and can be found at localhelp.healthcare.gov or calling 1-800-318-2596.

If you missed the December 15 deadline to enroll in coverage that begins on January 1, you still have an opportunity to get covered. If you enroll by January 15, your coverage will begin on February 1, 2015. The last day to enroll is February 15, 2015.