Arizona has a real problem with uninsured kids. But we also have a time-tested solution that now has no cost to the state budget: KidsCare. Arizona created KidsCare health coverage for children in working families in 1998 with bipartisan support and the leadership of Governor Jane Hull. For years, KidsCare succeeded in giving hundreds of thousands of families the chance for medication, doctor visits and therapies with premiums they could afford. During the great recession, we froze enrollment in KidsCare and watched it disappear. Today, we have the chance to lift that freeze at no cost to our state budget. We can cover 30,000 children, 100% supported by federal funds that Arizona taxpayers have already paid.
I’m fighting to lift the freeze on KidsCare because our state has the 3rd highest percentage of uninsured children in the country. We are the only state without some type of KidsCare coverage. The lack of affordable options harms our children, families, and communities. It weakens our whole health care system and holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs. It is another barrier to educational success. Research shows that kids who are uninsured have costly emergency room visits, miss classroom time, perform more poorly in school, and burden employers when families are stressed about finding health care for their children.
This problem is even more pronounced in Arizona’s rural communities like mine, where the percentage of uninsured children can be double or triple the national rate. Children growing up in Arizona’s rural communities often have more difficulties getting the check-ups and treatments they need that are more readily available to urban kids.
The Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill to lift the freeze on KidsCare – with an overwhelming majority. But the bill didn’t get a chance to move through the Senate. Now that the serious work to develop a state budget is beginning, we have the chance to lift the freeze through the budget bill. Please join me and 47 other state representatives, along with doctors and nurses, parents and grandparents, business and faith leaders, sheriffs and police officers to give more Arizona children the opportunity for good health, no matter what their zip code. Ask Governor Ducey and your state legislators to pass a budget that lifts the freeze on KidsCare.
Regina Cobb is a Republican who represents District 5 in the state House of Representatives.