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The Associated Press March 22, 2010, 3:20PM ET

Ariz. Dem says KidsCare repeal jeopardizes funding

Arizona stands to lose billions of dollars of federal Medicaid program funding unless it repeals the new state budget's elimination of a health care program for children, a House Democratic leader said Monday.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix told Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and House Speaker Kirk Adams in separate letters that eliminating the state's KidsCare program serving approximately 40,000 children would violate a "maintenance of effort" requirement of the Senate health care overhaul bill approved by Congress.

"This is a commitment by Congress to protect health care already provided," said Sinema, the House Democrats' point woman on health-care funding issues,

Brewer and the Republican-led Legislature included elimination of KidsCare -- the first such elimination by a state of its Children's Health Insurance Program -- to save $22 million in the next state budget. The budget closed a projected $2.6 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year.

Sinema said the federal money at stake for Arizona is approximately $7 billion. That's roughly the amount the state is receiving in the current fiscal year, according to the legislative budget office.

Sinema and other House Democrats want Adams, R-Mesa, to permit late legislation to expand the state sales tax to raise the $22 million needed to keep KidsCare. The Democrats suggested newly applying the sales tax to retail sales of extended warrants on products such as televisions.

The state Medicaid program's director and spokesmen for Brewer and Adams did not immediately return calls for comment.

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