Arizona on Thursday became the first state to eliminate its Children’s Health Insurance Program when Gov. Jan Brewer signed an austere budget that will leave nearly 47,000 low-income children without coverage.
The Arizona budget is a vivid reflection of how the fiscal crisis afflicting state governments is cutting deeply into health care. The state also will roll back Medicaid coverage for childless adults in a move that is expected to eventually drop 310,000 people from the rolls.
State leaders said they were left with few choices because of a $2.6 billion projected shortfall next year. But hospital officials and advocates for low-income people said they were worried that emergency rooms would be overrun by patients who had few other options for care, and that children might suffer enduring developmental problems because of inadequate medical attention.
The cuts also mean the state will forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching aid, and could lose far more if Congress passes a health bill that requires states to maintain eligibility levels for the two programs.
Ms. Brewer, a Republican, has 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 ...
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the budget last week, based largely on a proposal from the governor that included deep cuts to both health care and education. With state revenues down a third since 2007, the $8.9 billion budget reduced spending by about $1.1 billion.
Three states, including Arizona, had in the last year capped enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, financed jointly by states and the federal government. But two of those states — California and Tennessee — quickly removed their caps, said Jocelyn Guyer, co-executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University.
“They really are standing alone in cutting children off during the downturn,” Ms. Guyer said. “It’s going to have long-term consequences that will be there for kids long after Arizona’s budget situation gets better.”