Arizona Restores Health Program for Children of Working Poor


PHOENIX — A health care program for children of the working poor that had been left out of the budget approved by the Arizona Legislature this week was resuscitated on Friday, after Democrats and moderate Republicans agreed to attach it to a bill expanding disabled students’ eligibility for school vouchers.

After blocking a previous stand-alone bill authorizing the program last month, the Senate president, Andy Biggs, allowed the amended measure to come to a vote on Friday. The House of Representatives had already passed it 38 to 21 late Thursday.

Sixteen state senators — 11 Democrats and five Republicans — voted for it, essentially restoring the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, known in Arizona as KidsCare, six years after the state froze enrollment in the program to cut costs. The senators did so under intense protests from conservative lawmakers. One of them, Senator Nancy Barto of Phoenix, said: “Some of us here on the floor have obviously forgotten that we were not elected to expand government programs. We were elected to get rid of them.”

Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, wrote on Twitter, “Just signed KidsCare.” Now, Arizona will no longer be the only state in the country where children whose parents make too much to qualify forMedicaid yet too little to afford private insurance do not qualify for subsidized health care.

Less clear are Mr. Ducey’s intentions regarding another bill about to hit his desk, which would repeal a measure he signed into law last month requiring abortion clinics to follow an outdated protocol for the use of an abortion-inducing drug. His spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato, did not respond to requests for comment.

The earlier bill, restricting so-called medication abortions, specified that Arizona doctors had to abide by federal guidelines as they existed on Dec. 31, 2015. The Arizona Legislature passed it before the Food and Drug Administration relaxed the guidelines. But Mr. Ducey signed it into law a day after the modifications, which applied to the use of a drug called mifepristone to induce miscarriages. At the time, he acknowledged that “some changes may need to be made in a later bill” to conform to the new federal protocol.

Representative Regina Cobb, a Republican, sponsored the children’s health care amendment, going against many of her colleagues, including the House speaker, David M. Gowan, who voted no. During a heated debate that preceded the vote, Ms. Cobb, a dentist, said, “I see the results of what happens if we do not insure these kids.”

The program would provide subsidized health care for about 30,000 children whose families earned 138 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level: $27,000 to $40,000 for a family of three. The state used to put in $1 for every $3 the federal government spent, and the families paid a monthly premium.

After the federal government increased its funding for the program by 23 percent last year, Arizona and nine other states qualified for full reimbursement because of their low per-capita incomes. That means the children will receive the benefit at no cost to the state at least until Sept. 30, 2017.