Arizona’s rural areas have gained the most from the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and have the most to lose if massive cuts are made to Medicaid – according to a new report from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.
The report showed that the Grand Canyon State has the highest proportion in the nation of rural adults on Medicaid, which is known here as AHCCCS. Leslie Robles, enrollment supervisor for Chiricahua Community Health Center in Cochise County, said the massive cuts to Medicaid in the GOP health care plan would devastate Arizona’s poorest children.
“A lot of our children would be losing all that funding. So they would not be able to have their medical or dental or vision anymore,” Robles said. “So they’d be suffering the most.”
She also pointed out that many families depend on the federal dollars that fund the KidsCare program, which was revived last year after being cut in 2011. It serves low-income families that aren’t eligible for AHCCCS or Medicaid. In the city of Douglas, for example, Robles said 70 percent of children are on Medicaid or KidsCare.
The American Health Care Act is currently being renegotiated in the U.S. Senate, but the Congressional Budget Office said the bill that passed the House would cause 23 million people to lose health insurance over the next ten years.
Joan Alker, research professor and executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, explained why rural areas are particularly reliant on Medicaid.
“Because incomes tend to be lower and jobs are scarcer, particularly good jobs that provide health insurance,” Alker said. “We see both higher rates of uninsurance in these communities but we also see a greater and very vital role for the Medicaid program.”
The report also found that fully 54 percent of kids in rural areas of Arizona rely on Medicaid – compared with 36 percent in the metro areas. It is one of 14 states where more than half of small-town kids use Medicaid. 34 percent of adults in rural areas also use it, compared with 18 percent in the cities.
By Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – AZ