Arizona becomes first state to drop children's health program

Faced with a $2.6 billion projected shortfall next year, Arizona's new budget will leave 47,000 low-income children without health insurance. Although three states, including Arizona, have in the last year capped enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.) signed yesterday the first state budget in the nation to drop the program entirely, reports the New York Times.

Financed jointly by states and the federal government, CHIP insures nearly 7.7 million children whose parents' income falls between Medicaid qualifications and being able to afford private insurance.

With state revenues down one-third since 2007, Arizona's $8.9 billion budget reduced spending by about $1.1 billion. As part of deep cuts to education and healthcare, Arizona also will remove Medicaid eligibility for childless adults, thereby dropping as many as 310,000 people. Brewer warned that more cuts will be needed if voters do not approve a referendum in May to raise the sales tax by a penny for three years, to 6.6 cents per dollar, according to the Times.

The current cuts have hospital officials and advocates for the poor expressing concern about long-term medical problems low-income children might suffer without adequate medical care. "They really are standing alone in cutting children off during the downturn," Jocelyn Guyer, co-executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, told the Times. "It's going to have long-term consequences that will be there for kids long after Arizona's budget situation gets better."

To learn more:
- read the full New York Times article