Arizona Lawmakers Must Act Now to Protect Children’s Health
CHIP/KidsCare is a smart public safety investment
By Chief Daniel G. Sharp, Oro Valley Police Department
As a police chief, I know young people tend to avoid involvement in the criminal justice system when they have responsible parents, do well in school, and get treatment for behavioral and mental disorders that threaten their health.
With all of that in mind, I’m urging our state lawmakers to act very quickly to ensure access to KidsCare, which is our state’s version of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program provides high quality health coverage to children of working parents who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid/AHCCCS but who can’t afford the high cost of private health insurance.
We’re talking about kids whose parents work in industries ranging from hospitality to construction to retail and more. Those parents take their responsibility seriously by signing their kids up for KidsCare and paying affordable monthly premiums to ensure their children can get check-ups from doctors and dentists, immunizations against diseases, and treatments for physical and mental health issues.
This essential health care can have a significant impact on academic success, because research shows kids with access to Medicaid and CHIP miss fewer school days, do better in school overall, and are more likely to graduate high school, participate in postsecondary education, and earn higher wages.
These outcomes are also enhanced through early detection of emotional disturbances and mental or behavioral disorders. With coverage from CHIP/KidsCare, kids are more apt to get treatments that manage their symptoms and reduce delinquent behavior. That’s good news to those of us in law enforcement working hard to improve public safety.
Unfortunately, thousands of families are at risk of losing KidsCare coverage due to a state law that freezes access to the program when the federal funding decreases. To fix the problem, the Governor and legislature must remove the automatic freeze on enrollment in KidsCare and provide enough state funding to maintain or even increase the number of children who are able to receive this essential coverage.
Increasing the state investment also makes good economic sense by reducing the number of uninsured children treated in emergency rooms, which are funded at great cost by taxpayers. Kids who have coverage will be treated for health conditions before they become more severe, more expensive, and more likely to impact their success in school.
Insuring kids can also benefit parents – research from Harvard Business School finds families with CHIP coverage had a 15 percent higher rate of self-employment and a 36 percent higher rate of incorporated businesses.
Simply put, we need to think of this funding to less in terms of what it’ll cost today, and more as an investment to protect children’s health and safety and the strength of families and communities in the years to come.