Yesterday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) held a press conference to announce that the first Monday in October will be recognized as Child Health Day. “This is at time when we all come together to rededicate ourselves to Arizona’s children,” she said during her speech at the Arizona Children’s Center in Maricopa, AZ. Children’s advocates, however, had one word for Brewer’s proclamation: “ironic.” In touting her devotion to “the health and well-being of our children,” it seems Brewer failed to mention that the agenda she “spearheaded” directly undermines their health and well-being:
During the past two fiscal years, however, Brewer has agreed to cut more than $72 million from government-funded children’s health services. The cuts were part of $2.1 billion in state budget reductions that were focused primarily on health care, education and human services.
Brewer also spearheaded legislation to eliminate the state Medicaid program known as KidsCare, though the federal health care law required the Legislature to reverse the decision. Yet Brewer imposed an enrollment freeze in January that has lowered the number of children receiving health care coverage to about 27,000 from 47,000.
Brewer also proposed the elimination of the Early Childhood Development and Health Board and redirecting its money into the state’s general fund. The proposal became a ballot measure, and voters will decide the issue in November’s election.
Brewer also wants voters to approve Proposition 302, a bill “that would kill the First Things First program designed to improve early childhood health and development.”
According to the East Valley Tribune, she said “there is nothing inconsistent about the proclamation she signed and the spending cuts she has championed.” The proclamation, apparently, was specifically “designed to focus on preventative care for children” to make children “aware” of “eating good food and watching that they don’t become obese and exercise daily.” As for the spending cuts, she said it’s “unfortunate” but “hard decisions are going to have to be made.”
But with 23 percent of Arizona children living in poverty, up from 20 percent in 2007, children’s advocates say it’s more than unfortunate. Because of Brewer’s current freeze, nearly 53,000 KidsCare applications have not been processed and more than 70,000 children have been denied coverage. According to the Children’s Action Alliance, such a freeze means that “more than 100 kids a day are being denied health insurance coverage.”
Protecting Arizona’s Families Coalition’s Tim Schmaltz says Brewer ignored numerous possible revenue sources that she could have used “that would not attack children and children’s health,” such as taxing spa treatments or country club memberships. “Rather than just stand up and proclaim that we care about children, we should act like we care about children,’’ he said.