BULLHEAD CITY — The state of Arizona is prepared to implement a contingency plan to prevent nearly 23,000 children from losing access to health insurance.

Congress failed to reauthorize funding for Childrens Health Insurance Program — known as KidsCare in Arizona — which insures 9 million children nationally, by a Sept. 30 deadline.

In the interim, Arizona redistributed funding from another program to fund CHIP programming through December, said Heidi Capriotti, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System public information officer.  

Five states anticipated to run out of funding by Dec. 31, including Arizona, received redistributed unused CHIP funding to prevent shutdown of the program, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. However once those funds are exhausted, no further federal money will be available unless authorized by Congress. 

The state also created a contingency plan, which will fund the program into the first quarter of 2018, Capriotti said.

KidsCare is a joint federal-state program established to provide insurance coverage for low- and moderate-income families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but whose family income is between 100 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. KidsCare premiums are capped at $50 a month for one child and $70 a month for more than one child. 

Michelle Hann, a local certified medical assistant, uses KidsCare to cover two of her children — Christian, 9, and Matthew, 3, who at age 1 required surgery to treat chronic ear infections. Matthew’s ear, nose and throat specialist is in Las Vegas.

“It’s good insurance,” Hann said. “Even though the doctor is in another state, they still approved for my son to be treated there and he’s been going to see this doctor for going on a year and a half now. I’ve never had any issues with that insurance at all.”

Most states are anticipated to exhaust their federal CHIP funds by March. On Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing began sending out informational letters to its CHIP members notifying them that the program will end Jan. 31, if Congress does not renew federal funding.

Capriotti said the state expects Congress to take action to reauthorize CHIP and has not sent out notifications to parents of children enrolled in the program.

“It’s a little scary,” Hann said. “There would have been no way I would have been able to pay for all the doctors visits, the surgeries that Matt’s had and medication that he’s been on. If I didn’t have the insurance I don’t know what would have happened, my son wouldn’t have gotten the care that he has so far.”

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