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Urge Senators McCain and Flake to Start Over on a New Health Care Bill

Your efforts to convince Congress to pass meaningful health care reform are working: The U.S. Senate put off voting on health care reform until after the July 4th holiday recess. Now is the time to keep the message strong to Senators McCain and Flake that we need a bill that works for Arizona, NOT one that pulls the rug out from thousands of children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

The Congressional Budget Office this week reported that the Senate bill would kick 22 million Americans off health care by 2026. The bill would force Governor Ducey to decide which Arizonans would lose health care. It would decimate Medicaid (AHCCCS in Arizona), force the rationing of health coverage among low-income seniors, kids and working families, provide few protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and drive up health care costs for seniors and other Americans. It would deepen the opioid crisis and wipe out jobs.

Senators McCain and Flake have called for a more deliberate and thoughtful process. Now it’s time for them to stand against the Senate bill and start over with a proposal that builds on the success of AHCCCS, protects our economy, and expands affordable health care coverage.The public has a right to be part of the process, and our voices need to be a part of any proposal that affects our health coverage.

Let’s keep the pressure on, click here to send an email to Senators McCain and Flake, letting them know we want health care legislation good for Arizona and all Americans. Thank you.

Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding: A 2017 Legislative Report Card for Kids

Children’s Action Alliance is pleased to bring you our annual report card, Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding, an overview of how your legislators voted on priority measures for the 2017 session. This year, we looked at how lawmakers voted on tax cuts, the state budget, school vouchers (Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) and driver’s insurance for foster youth.

We invite you to read and share this easy-to-use bottom line information about what the legislative session means for children and families.

 

School Vouchers and Why They are Not Good for AZ Public Schools

Children’s Action Alliance fought to defeat SB 1431 this legislative session, the expansion of school vouchers, called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESAs. We worked hard to let lawmakers know that this diversion of public dollars into private and religious schools would expand ESA vouchers to every student in Arizona, while leaving public schools behind. The voucher scheme does nothing to address our teacher shortage crisis or improve our crumbling school facilities. But with intensive pressure from Governor Ducey, the universal voucher bill became law after passing by one vote in the Senate and one vote in the House.

We are proud to be working with Save Our Schools Arizona, a statewide, grassroots group of parents and educators who are collecting signatures on a petition to put SB1431 on the 2018 ballot so that voters have the chance to overturn it.

You can help Save Our Schools succeed by August 1:

*Visit SOSarizona.org today to donate or volunteer! Volunteers are needed to carry petitions, perform data entry, verify signatures, transport petitions, etc. There is room for everyone to help.

*Sign the petition! You can find daily events in every corner of our state on Facebook.

Please get involved to support public education!

Click here to get our new policy brief that explains the dangers of ESA vouchers.

 

New Report Finds Most Kids in AZ Do Not Have Access to Preschool Programs

Arizona once again ranks at the bottom of the country for access to quality and state investments per child on preschool. According to the 2016 State of Preschool Yearbook released annually by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), despite bipartisan national support for quality early preschool, Arizona continues to lose ground. The report states that “decades of research shows that early childhood education can prepare children for greater success in elementary school and beyond- but only if quality is high”. In Arizona, the legislature eliminated general fund dollars for preschool in 2010. Those dollars have not been replaced despite improvements in the state’s economy.

Currently, the only state funding going to quality preschool programs is delivered through the First Things First, Quality First scholarship program. Funding for this program fell 17 percent from the 2014-2015 reports. Only 4 percent of Arizona’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in state funded preschool, far below the national average of 32 percent. In practical terms, 1800 children lost access to quality early preschool programs in the past year. What’s more, the state investment per child is nearly $1500 below the national average.

We must continue to advocate for state level policies and investments that help actually move us forward from discussion to action.The full report can be found here.

Conditions for Arizona Kids Show Few Bright Spots, Health Care Strides at Risk

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book finds Arizona’s conditions for kids remain difficult, in the bottom five in the nation, ranking 46th. The yearly analysis looks at 16 different indicators affecting children’s health, economic well-being and family and community factors.

Although Arizona has one of the highest rates of uninsured kids in the nation, a bright spot in the report is that more Arizona kids had health insurance, which they were able to get because of Medicaid (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or AHCCCS) and coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. This progress is at risk if Congress approves massive cuts to Medicaid or passes the American Health Care Act in its current form.

Because the report evaluates 2015 data, the numbers do not include the more than 20,000 children now enrolled in KidsCare, reinstated last year.

The report is available online.

Few Bright Spots in Conditions for Arizona Kids; Progress in Health Could Backslide With State and Congressional Votes

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PHOENIX, Ariz., June 13, 2017—The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book finds Arizona’s conditions for kids in the bottom five in the nation, ranking 46th. The analysis takes into account 16 different indicators across four domains: education, health, economic well-being and family and community aspects.

More Arizona kids gained access to health coverage through Medicaid expansion and the marketplace when the Affordable Care Act went into effect. That increase in insured children helped boost Arizona’s health ranking from 45 in last year’s Data Book to 40 this year. Now, only 8 percent of the state’s children are uninsured, a 38 percent drop from 2010. Updated data will reflect more progress, since KidsCare coverage was restored in September 2016 and 20,000 children are now enrolled.

“So many Arizonans joined together last year to fight for KidsCare and it’s exciting to see this trend going in the right direction,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance. “But this good news could be wiped out in the blink of an eye.”

The U.S. House version of the American Health Care Act and President Trump’s budget proposal would push tens of thousands of Arizona children out of affordable health coverage with reckless cuts to Medicaid, Naimark explained. And the state budget just signed by Governor Doug Ducey mandates that KidsCare enrollment be frozen again if there is any reduction to federal funding to Arizona.

“We’re counting on our state lawmakers to work side by side with our Congressional delegation to stand up for the health care Arizona children need,” Naimark added.

Thanks to parents, mentors, educators, community support and health care, Arizona’s teen birth rate improved more quickly than the national trend. At 26 births per 1,000 females in 2015, the teen birth rate is down 38 percent since 2010, and below the national average. But this progress is also at risk—in a surprise, last-minute addition to the state budget in April, legislators changed the allocation of Title X federal family planning funds. Now, teens may lose access to effective pregnancy prevention services in the coming year.

“Our elected leaders should be working with us to build on the improvements in health coverage and teen parenthood,” said Delphis Richardson, an East Valley pediatrician who chairs the Cover Kids Coalition. “I know firsthand these are two of the most important changes we can make to help children grow up healthy and make families stronger.”

Other measures that showed slow improvement include:

  • The percentage of 3-4 year old children not enrolled in preschool is now at 63 percent, compared to 66 percent in 2010; Arizona still ranks in the bottom five states.
  • The percentage of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment has improved a bit more in Arizona than the national trend.
  • The rate of child and teen deaths dropped 14 percent from 2010 to 2015, now just below the national average.

The report shows that many families in Arizona continue to struggle with poverty during the slow and uneven economic recovery. One in four children in the state is growing up poor, higher than the national average of 21 percent.

The 2017 Data Book is available at www.aecf.org, with additional information and online data tools at the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Users can customize their own data sets, maps and graphics to illustrate the most recent statistics available.

Children’s Action Alliance is an independent voice for Arizona children at the state capitol and in the community. CAA works to improve children’s health, education and security through information and action.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.

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Experts Say Medicaid/AHCCCS is Critical to Arizona’s Economy

Thanks to all of you who joined our panel of economists and business leaders on Tuesday, June 6th at the Medicaid Works forum to discuss the connection between Medicaid, jobs and economic growth.

We learned a lot from our moderator, Don Henninger, and panelists Lee McPheters, Mike Hutchinson, Josh Nuñez, and David Lujan.

McPheters stressed that Medicaid, known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, is a critical part of the state’s economic growth.

“A loss of federal funds for Medicaid could trigger a health care recession and have dramatic ripple effects throughout our economy. There is no way the private sector could replace the current Medicaid health care system that now covers 2 million people in Arizona,” McPheters told the audience.

Lujan, who served in the Arizona legislature for eight years, added that no matter how solid an education system is, children need regular health care to succeed. He also said if Congress makes good on plans to turn health care responsibility over to the states, Governor Ducey will be the one deciding which families get to keep health coverage and which don’t. “Governor Ducey will be the one signing the state budget that wipes out treatment and coverage for thousands of people in our state.”

The forum, sponsored by Vitalyst Health Foundation, Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition, and Children’s Action Alliance, included questions from participants. Attendees pointed out that Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have a critical role to play in standing up for Arizona’s economic needs as the US Senate develops its own health care legislation.

 

Join The AZ Schools Now Network

A little more than a year ago, Children’s Action Alliance joined forces with nine other organizations to form a coalition focused on reinvesting in Arizona’s public schools.

The coalition, AZ Schools Now, has brought parents, teachers, school board members, and community advocates together to advance policies that address our teacher shortage and strengthen public schools. We have held statewide community budget hearings, sent postcards to our legislators, highlighted key education issues for the media, met with lawmakers, and organized rallies at the Capitol.

To make this voice for public education strong and unified, we are asking you to join the AZ Schools Now network.

Click here to get email updates and notice of events

To learn more, visit our new website.

Together we can improve educational opportunities for Arizona’s future.