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Chavez: Congress must act to preserve Medicaid eligibility


COVID-19 may not dominate the headlines anymore with so many other national issues demanding our attention, but that hasn’t stopped case counts caused by omicron variants from going on the rise.

Arizona added over 16,000 cases the last week of June and positivity percentages are close to where they were back in January.

This isn’t a doom-and-gloom article about a never-ending pandemic. However, valuable tools developed during the pandemic response are in danger of going away. Now is simply not the time to leave vulnerable populations unprotected.

The U.S. remains under a COVID-19 public health emergency, which played an integral role in expediting vaccine production, testing programs and authorizing therapeutics. The PHE also increased the federal share of most Medicaid spending on the condition states meet certain maintenance of eligibility requirements, including pausing Medicaid disenrollment and continued Medicaid enrollment that helped millions of our fellow Americans maintain coverage.

Expanded Medicaid coverage has been a lifeline for many Arizonans since the start of the pandemic, but its permanency remains elusive. With the expiration of the public health emergency constantly shifting, lawmakers should act to protect those who need additional coverage.

According to recent reporting, hundreds of thousands of Arizonans stand to lose their healthcare coverage if the public health emergency declaration expires this summer.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act prohibited the disenrollment of AHCCCS members if states accepted the increased federal Medicaid funding. This prohibition extended to KidsCare, which provides health care coverage to children from low-income families across the state.

Last year, Consumers for Quality Care released survey data showing American voters are worried about unpredictability and pressure caused by high out-of-pocket costs. Sixty percent say they have skipped or delayed getting health care they need because they are concerned about cost.

Millions of Americans are already being hurt by inflation, rising food costs, and rising gas prices.

Pulling the rug out from underneath them and potentially placing additional financial burdens on struggling families is unconscionable.

As the effects of the pandemic are back on the rise, Congress should act to extend the maintenance of eligibility requirements so the most vulnerable Arizonans can be certain they won’t lose coverage.

Senators Sinema and Kelly will put Arizona in a safe place if they lead on this issue. Acting now will provide relief, certainty and accessibility to millions of Americans who have made countless sacrifices since the pandemic began.

About the author

Democrat Cesar Chavez is a member of the Arizona House of Representatives serving Legislative District 29, which covers Maryvale, South Glendale and Litchfield Park. He is currently a candidate for the Arizona Senate in the new LD24.