New Arizona partnership to provide 20,000 kids with health care

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Cronkite News Service

PHOENIX – Three state health institutions will put up $113 million, subject to the federal government matching those funds $2 for $1, to improve medical care for children of the working poor, Gov. Jan Brewer said Monday.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Maricopa Integrated Health System and the University of Arizona Health Network will use the funds to provide affordable coverage to 19,283 children over two years through a state program known as KidsCare, which was established to provide affordable health insurance coverage for children of working parents. The state eliminated funding for the plan in 2010, as well as making deep cuts to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, as leaders addressed the budget deficit.

In addition to boosting KidsCare, the institutions will set aside operating revenues to improve the efficiency of pediatric services, establish trauma services in medically underserved areas and offset increasing costs from providing care to the uninsured.

“This is one way of being creative, one way of serving the bigger population and, again, another way of looking at our hospitals that absorb so much of the costs and the care under uncompensated care to give them a little bit of relief,” Brewer said.

She said the plan is a creative bridge, at no cost to the state, until the federal government figures out what will happen with President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“Locally designed solutions, not federal mandates, are the best way to move forward ensuring Arizonans continue to have access to the best quality health care possible at an affordable cost,” Brewer said.

Brewer and the health care leaders hope the plan draws $229 million in federal matching funds. It’s subject to approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Bob Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said the number of uninsured children who need services at the hospital continues to grow.

“Without this funding Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s mission of providing the highest quality and most appropriate cost-effective care becomes even more difficult,” Meyer said.

Betsy Bayless, president and CEO of the Maricopa Integrated Health System, said an increase in Medicaid patients combined with cuts to AHCCCS have had a devastating effect on the health care system.

“We find that it makes financial sense … so that we can get paid for the people who are coming to us now that have no insurance at all and that we can make sure that these people can be taken care of,” she said.

Karen Mlawsky, University of Arizona Health Network’s hospital division CEO, said the plan focuses primarily on children because of the greater challenges faced in running a pediatric program.

“It isn’t a complete solution; it’s an effort to improve our situation,” she said.


Two funding pools:


• Total funds for uncompensated care: $174 million
• Total funds for KidsCare expansion: $45 million


• Maricopa Integrated Health System will develop a system-wide electronic health record system to increase efficiency of system’s workforce. Proposed funding: $35 million.
• University of Arizona Health Network will establish trauma services and an electronic record system in a medically underserved area. Proposed funding: $50 million.
• Phoenix Children’s Hospital will improve efficiency and capacity of the pediatric trauma center’s teaching programs. Proposed funding: $40 million.


(From left to right) Karen Mlawsky, CEO of the hospital division of the University of Arizona Health Network, Betsey Bayless, president and CEO of the Maricopa Integrated Health System, Bob Meyer, president and CEO of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Gov. Jan Brewer speak at a press conference in Phoenix announcing a plan under which those health organizations would put forward $113 million subject to a 2-for-1 federal match. Among other provisions, the money would restore KidsCare health insurance access to nearly 20,000 children of working poor parents. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Rachel Jimenez)