News ID: 139395
Published: 0324 GMT April 12, 2016

Backers fight for children's health insurance in Arizona

Backers fight for children's health insurance in Arizona

A fight is intensifying in the Arizona Legislature over the Senate leader's refusal to restore a program providing health insurance to poor children, a stance that would maintain the state's position as the only one in the nation that doesn't participate in the plan.

Advocates who want the program restarted rallied at the Capitol on Monday in a last-ditch effort. Arizona froze its KidsCare program in 2010 to save money during a state budget crunch. It once covered more than 63,000 children, but fewer than 1,000 now have the insurance, AP reported.

Senate President Andy Biggs has blocked the proposal despite it passing overwhelmingly in the House because he's opposed to the Affordable Care Act and is worried the federal government will cut payments and force Arizona to pick up more of the tab.

Backers note the federal government is paying for 100 percent of the plan through 2017, and the proposal allows the state to stop the program if federal funding drops.

"What we're talking about is a population that Obamacare is already supposed to cover," Biggs said Monday. "And when people say it's free, it really isn't free, is it, because it's a taxpayer-funded program. So when we start talking about taxpayer-funded program, the question is it state taxes or is it federal taxes, but they're all coming from our taxpayers any way you look at it."

Biggs said in interviews with AP and on Arizona PBS' Horizon public affairs show last week that he has no intention of allowing House Bill 2309 to move forward. It passed the House on a 47-12 vote on March 2.

Biggs previously said it isn't that easy to cut off insurance if federal funding drops once 30,000 or so children are insured.

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