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Advocates Celebrate Kids Health Program as Lawmakers Sharpen Budget Ax

January 23, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – Children's advocates hope to convince state lawmakers not to scrap the federally-assisted state insurance program, called KidsCare. Many gathered yesterday at the Arizona State Capitol to celebrate the 10th birthday of the program, which provides low-cost health coverage for 60,000 children in working families. They voiced concern that lawmakers would end KidsCare to help cover a projected $4-billion budget deficit.

Dana Naimark, president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance, says doing so would be a huge mistake.

"That would be not only a move backward for our state, but a disaster. It would more families into medical crisis, more families into the emergency room, and more families facing medical debt and foreclosure."

Robyn Getz, her husband and their four children have been covered by KidsCare. The Phoenix working mom says the program has made it possible for her and her spouse to hold down jobs.

"My husband works in the construction industry and does not have health insurance available to him through his work. And I'm an in-home caregiver for an elderly woman and I do not have health insurance available to me through my work. We both work really hard and we don't make a lot of money and so we do qualify for KidsCare."

If KidsCare were eliminated, adds Getz, her family would be unable to afford private health insurance to keep their children healthy.

"If they get sick, then we won't be able to have health care for them. We will have to take them to the emergency room when they get so bad. Having KidsCare enables them to have their own doctors and to get the medical care necessary before they get so sick that they have to go to the emergency room."

Budget committee chairs say eliminating KidsCare would save the state $66 million this year and next. But, supporters point out every state dollar in the program is matched three-to-one by the federal government.

Federal funding for KidsCare expires March 31. President Obama has made renewal of the program, known as S-CHIP, a priority.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ