« July 2016 Issue

Arizona An Outlier No More: Kids Team Supports Advocates in Restoring CHIP

Providing access to health care for children seems like a no-brainer. Yet in 2010, Arizona’s governor and Republican-led Legislature froze the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), called KidsCare, dropping the number of children enrolled in the program from roughly 45,000 to fewer than 1,000 over the next six years. As a result, 30,000 Arizona children in low-income families were caught in their own Medicaid coverage gap – their household income was too high to qualify for Medicaid, but not high enough to qualify for tax credits to make coverage affordable ($48,600 for a family of four). State hospitals banded together to fund a stopgap program, but it was a temporary solution that expired in 2014. Refusing to allow Arizona’s low-income children to be the only children in the entire country denied affordable access to a pediatrician, state advocates quickly mobilized to restore KidsCare.

At that time, the Community Catalyst Alliance for Children’s Health (CCACH) partnered with Children’s Action Alliance Arizona (CAA) and began providing both financial support and technical assistance to create a broad coalition and launch a statewide grassroots campaign to fight back against opposition leaders in the legislature. To be effective, CAA collaborated with groups across the spectrum, including the AARP, hospitals, the March of Dimes and chambers of commerce to collect stories, amplify the voices of children and families being left behind and turn up the heat in Phoenix.

Over the next couple of years and with assistance from the CCACH team, CAA’s work ended up utilizing every aspect of the system of advocacy. They developed a strong coalition of grassroots organizations to capitalize on earned media opportunities, conducted and framed thoughtful policy analysis to move the needle with legislators, created and maintained a story bank, learned when and how to activate their grassroots supporters and built the coalition’s internal capacity to handle any additional challenges as they arose.

“The Community Catalyst team was right there in the trenches with us since day one,” said Joseph Fu, Director of Health Policy at Children’s Action Alliance. “They helped suggest edits to our publications, served as a sounding board on ways to improve our advocacy, found partners for us to talk to and referred us to other state children’s advocacy or health advocacy organizations for any unresolved questions.”

Arizona provided a unique legislative challenge to advocates as the Speaker of the House and Senate President both opposed the restoration of the KidsCare program. So each coalition member used their membership lists to target Governor Doug Ducey and create enough champions within the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the state House and Senate to overcome the opposition of chamber leadership. 

However, it was hard to be optimistic as CAA received bad news two days before the end of the session. “We found out that KidsCare was a casualty of budget negotiations and that there was no path forward since the budget had been passed,” said Fu. “Numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, issued stories saying that Arizona failed to restore CHIP.”

Refusing to accept defeat, CAA and their partners put together a final coordinated push to restore KidsCare. They generated calls to legislators funded by the Community Catalyst Action Fund, a (c)(4) organization, and amplified the support of the legislative champions they had spent years building. This coordination of effort in the waning moments of the session was enough to turn the tide and restore KidsCare in the budget, even over the objections of chamber leadership. After years of coalition building and outreach, Arizona’s children will now have the same ability to access coverage as the rest of the nation’s children, beginning September 1, 2016.

It’s safe to say that both CCACH and CAA learned a great deal over the last two years about building and sustaining a coalition and how to engage partners to accomplish a significant legislative victory. But beyond all of the capacity building, perhaps the most important lesson learned was, as Fu said, “What may seem impossible today may change tomorrow, so don’t give up!”

Jack Cardinal, Communications Manager

O N   T H E   W I R E

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Tera Bianchi, project director of our Dental Access Project, joined Dan Gorenstein, the Health Desk host of American Public Media’s Marketplace radio program, to talk about the legislative victory authorizing Dental Therapists to practice in the state of Vermont.

Amanda Ptashkin, project manager for Southern Health Partners project, was quoted in a Savannah Morning News article about Louisiana’s new initiative to close the coverage gap, which has already led to over 225,000 citizens of that state gaining Medicaid coverage.

Jacquie Anderson, chief operating officer, has been appointed to the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s Board of Directors.

The Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation was invited by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to travel to Pittsburgh on June 21 to lead a day-long training for community and consumer groups, to help them prepare for and engage in the launch of Community HealthChoices, Pennsylvania’s planned Medicaid Managed Long-Term Services and Supports program. Center Director Ann Hwang, Deputy Director Renée Markus Hodin and Senior Policy Anaylst/LTSS Alice Dembner conducted the training.

Jessica Curtis, senior advisor, Hospital Accountability Project was quoted in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about a wave of medical debt collection lawsuits in St. Louis, after a large health system outsourced its emergency department operations.

The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network gave one of its of 2016 Excellence Awards, in the category “Collaboration: Collective Impact,” to the Children’s Vision Massachusetts coalition. Eva Marie Stahl, project director of the Community Catalyst Alliance for Children’s Health, and Erin DiSanto, human resources manager, played active roles in the coalition’s efforts that resulted in improved access to prescription glasses for children in Massachusetts.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Aryka Chapman, state advocacy manager, Substance Use Disorders Project; Ana Maria De La Rosa, state advocacy manager, Substance Use Disorders Project; Stephen Eisele, communications manager; Daniel Frost, digital communications specialist; Marissa Korn, program associate, State Consumer Health Advocacy Program; Rosa Palacios, consumer engagement specialist, Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation; Kyle Marie Stock, senior policy analyst, Community Catalyst Alliance for Children’s Health.

Please also welcome our 2016 Summer Interns: Stephen Bozier, Karina Carrillo, Naomi Fedna, Andrew Jopson, Mitchell Luti and Shruti Shantharam. And we are pleased to have former intern Jasmine Bland and former practicum student Dan Orenstein continuing on project work with us this summer.

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