Expanding KidsCare is an investment that will pay off

March 11, 2021 4:36 pm
arizona covid-19 mask

Image via iStock / Getty Images Plus

COVID has brought great uncertainty into our lives in this past year. 

We worry about how it will affect our own health, our families and friends; how it will impact our jobs and our ability to care for those we love. One thing we should not worry about is being able to afford appropriate medical attention for our children. Whether it’s an earache, a bump or sprain, or fear of COVID, no family should have to choose between a child’s health and a family’s survival.

Yet 30,000 of Arizona’s children are not covered by a health care plan. In those families, there are surely moments of uncertainty: do we go to the doctor or do we pay the rent or buy groceries? Will my child recover if we just “tough it out?” 

This dilemma is exactly why Arizona’s Kids Care program exists. For every dollar Arizona invests, we get five more to cover these kids. With an additional $12 million in this year’s state budget (and $47 million in federal matching funds), we could insure those 30,000 kids. This is a worthy investment in common compassion and in our next generation.

These wrenching decisions to forego treatment can have lifelong consequences that impact the individual as well as our bottom line. I live with the real effects of such a decision. As a child, I had a strep throat that my parents could not afford to have treated. Without a doctor’s care that strep throat turned into scarlet fever. That, in turn, became rheumatic fever. A common and treatable childhood illness became a chronic condition that ultimately did permanent damage to my heart.

I sometimes fainted with exertion during childhood games of kickball. I somehow outgrew that and became very athletic as a teen. Then, in my 30s following the birth of my child, I developed an irregular heartbeat that required surgical intervention. Once again, I healed and engaged in performance athletics. However, just recently, that word “chronic” reared its ugly head once more and I developed a new irregular heartbeat that required non-surgical invention. I am again on the mend and expect a robust recovery.

Each of these cardiac events is directly attributable to that untreated strep throat in my childhood. Tens of thousands of dollars in medical treatments and lost productivity could have been prevented with a few dollars in antibiotics – had my parents been able to afford them.

I am not alone. Dentists commonly treat patients like me with advance antibiotics even before a teeth cleaning. How many of these 30,000 children who are currently uninsured will end up with lifelong consequences of childhood disease – from ear infections to strep throat to potentially COVID? 

“Pennywise and pound foolish” is a common cliché. Yet this thinking has prevented KidsCare expansion. We’re told “Arizona can’t afford it.” I believe I am case-in-point on why Arizona absolutely must invest in our children’s health.

My colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus and I are pushing hard to include KidsCare expansion in the state budget, but we need your voices behind us. These children should be covered simply because it’s right. No one should suffer needlessly when a few dollars in treatment could ease their illness. We should also do this because it’s prudent. Treatment now can save tens of thousands of future treatments. We have an opportunity to expand KidsCare now. We should take it.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.