Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 22, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

KidsCare


  • The state-run health insurance program that provides affordable coverage for children and adults who do not qualify for Medicaid celebrates its 10th birthday as lawmakers consider eliminating the program completely. Guest: Matt Jewett, Children's Action Alliance.
Guests:
  • Matt Jewett - Children's Action Alliance
  • Kris Mayes - Chairman, Arizona Corporation Commission
  • Major General Hugo Salazar - Commander, Arizona National Guard
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon" -- a birthday celebration for Kidscare, Arizona's health insurance program for low-income, working families. The program is 10 years old, but will budget cuts keep it from turning 11? The new chairman of the Arizona corporation commission is here to tell us how she'd like to make Arizona the solar energy capitol of America. And we'll hear from the new leader of Arizona's Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. That's coming up next on "Horizon."

Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Kidscare is a state-run health insurance program that provides affordable coverage for children and adults who do not qualify for Medicaid. They're generally working families who earn less than twice the federal poverty level, or about $43,000 a year for a family of four. Some state lawmakers are proposing the program be eliminated to help balance the budget. As David Majure reports, that's alarming to those who celebrated Kidscare's 10th birthday outside the state capitol today.

Children singing:
Happy birthday, dear Kidscare! Happy birthday to you!

Dana Wolfe Naimark:
Kidscare provides affordable healthcare coverage to kids and parents who otherwise would not be insured.

David Majure:
A birthday party for Kidscare just outside the state's capitol, celebrating 10 years to people like Robin Getz.

Robin Getz:
My husband and are hardworking. My husband works in the construction field and I'm an in-home caregiver for an elderly woman and neither of us have healthcare. We cannot afford healthcare through the private industry so we rely on Kidscare.

Dana Wolfe Naimark:
We know that discussions are beginning in the very buildings in front of us and some legislators have already proposed eliminating Kidscare for both parents and children. That would be a move back for our state but a disaster. Bringing more families into medical crisis, into the emergency room, more families facing medical debt and foreclosure.

Robin Getz:
My husband and I will not be able to hold down our jobs if our children get sick. We won't know if we're going to be able to survive. We would not be able to afford health insurance. We would not be able to afford that.

Dana Wolfe Naimark:
So certainly, here today we'll have a unified message that we urge our lawmakers to keep Kidscare strong for the next 10 years and beyond that.

Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk about Kidscare is Matt Jewett with Children's Action Alliance. Good to have you here.

Matt Jewett:
Thanks Ted.

Ted Simons:
They're looking awfully closely at Kidscare and the suggestion is to eliminate the program, just get rid of it completely. Why are they wrong?

Matt Jewett:
Well, Kidscare provides 64,000 kids in this state who are from low-income family with health insurance. We know that they're more likely to have well visits to the doctor and vaccinated and grow up to have more opportunities in life. And Kidscare provides insurance that brings about $600 million to our state's economy. That would disappear. Federal money would leave our state and go to other states because jobs are supported by this as well.

Ted Simons:
Is that part of the reasoning where -- obviously talking $18.5 million this year. $35 million plus over all, saving money. People looking to cut the program would save that money. But on the other side, you're doing more harm than good.

Matt Jewett:
Money that -- that's money that would disappear. We have families that wouldn't have any other option. Would be eliminating the only affordable option for those families and private market is not a viable option in this income range. We know only about one in four or one in five who are between 100\% to 200\% of the poverty level -- very few have health insurance through their employer and at that, it's not only affordable.

Ted Simons:
Can Kidscare be provided by other boards, these types of things?

Matt Jewett:
It's difficult as I said for the families to go out in the private sector to buy it on their own would cost more than 20\% of a working family's income which means they would not buy it. Children would go without healthcare. They would have health cases that would get worse and worse and put off care and show up in the emergency room. Kidscare keeps kids out of the emergency room and helps them go to regular doctors which saves our state money and there's not infrastructure elsewhere. At a time when the economy is having such a downturn right now, there isn't anyone else in the private sector. In the non-profit sector.

Ted Simons:
I was going to say. The private sector, is there any dynamic whatsoever?

Matt Jewett:
It's delivered through private healthcare providers that contract with the state. And the people on Kidscare cannot enter into the private market and cannot afford to go out individually.

Ted Simons:
Considering the budget situation, can Kidscare survive if it stays alive but without the funding it has so far received?

Matt Jewett:
We believe any cuts to Kidscare would be very, very difficult. Already families on the Kidscare program do pay monthly premiums. If the parents are involved, it's up to $176 a month. And when you get above about 5\% of the income, it's when they start dropping the health insurance. And we have 300,000 of them, would fill 4,000 school buses if you were to put them on bus.

Ted Simons:
The other agency that helps celebrates?

Matt Jewett:
Various children's hospitals and, in fact, several of the hospitals in the valley and the Arizona association of the American Society of Pediatrics. We've received bipartisan support and we hope it will for at least another 10.

Ted Simons:
Alright Matt thanks for joining us.

Matt Jewett:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Earlier Kris Mayes was selected as chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission. This is what Mayes had to say.

Kris Mayes:
As everyone knows I'm a major proponent, like some of my colleagues, of increasing the amount of renewable energy that we do in the state of Arizona, the amount of energy efficiency and water conservation. But those are my objectives as a colleague. It's not my role as the chairman to try to force those issues. It's my hope that together we can reach consensus on those issues. I do believe that Arizona can over the next couple of years become the solar energy capitol of America and we have to do a couple of things to make that happen, including encouraging more renewable energy transmission. But I believe -- and it's been my experience over the last couple of years, that the best way to make big policy changes is to gain consensus of the commissioners. And 5-0 votes are better than 3-2 votes. And so I'll be looking to try to achieve that kind of consensus on big issues like renewable energy and energy efficiency and water conservation.

Ted Simons:
Joining me now is the chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, Kris Mayes.

Kris Mayes:
Good to be here. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Busy, huh?

Kris Mayes:
Oh, boy, it's been a great start. It's been a fast start. Things are busy at the commission.

Ted Simons:
Let's start with the concept of the renewable energy standard. Increasing it to 25\% by 2025.

Kris Mayes:
Right now it's 15\% by 2025 and I have called to increasing it to 25\%. Which would put Arizona sort of back at the front of the pack among all of those states. There are about 30 states right now that have a renewable energy standard. Right now we have the most aggressive requirement for solar rooftops but as a total requirement, the 15\% is not necessarily very aggressive among the 30 states that have a renewable energy standard. I think we ought to look at taking it to 25.

Ted Simons:
There's been fighting over the 15\%. Is the 2025 doable?

Kris Mayes:
I think it is. And you're right. We're being sued by the Goldwater Institute for doing what we did. Sometimes people think we can't do enough and some think we did too much, maybe that says we did exactly what we ought to have done. I think it's time to start looking at that. It's clear to everybody that our utilities are capable of doing more renewable energy. Some now are so much on the bandwagon that they're actually willing to do more than we require. So I think we ought to shoot higher.

Ted Simons:
For those who say we ought to hold off until the cost goes down, you respond.

Kris Mayes:
The cost compared to fossil fuels is already beginning to look competitive. At least with regard to wind. Solar we believe within the next four years will be cost competitive and when the federal government passes a cap and trade program which will put additional expenses on coal-fired electricity, it's going to make renewable energy look cost competitive and make us look foolish if we didn't do this now.

Ted Simons:
In other words, if you wait until it become competitive, you're behind the game?

Kris Mayes:
And one the things we're trying doing with the renewable energy standard at the commission is drive the price down. When you drive up demand, you create a demand for technology. Some of that technology is being developed right here at Arizona State University in our School of Sustainability. In our engineering school here. So what we're trying to do is drive down the price of renewable energy so it's cost competitive and so that we can really mainstream this technology into our utility system.

Ted Simons:
What are the latest thoughts regarding transmission issues?

Kris Mayes:
A critical piece. And probably a lot of folks don't realize how important transmission is to making sure that Arizona becomes a solar energy capital. Because you can have all of the standards, 15\%, 25\%, but if you can't get the energy to the cities and the people who need it and who would use it, what's the point? A lot of the energy -- for instance, we've got about 10,000 megawatts between Yuma and Phoenix available for solar energy. But we need the power lines to get that into Phoenix and potentially into Los Angeles and when do you that, you'll start to see 100, 200 megawatt projects built out in the desert and then I believe you'll start to see manufacturers of that solar equipment locate in the state of Arizona and that's what we want to see. We want to bring ourselves out of this situation we find ourselves in when we're dependent and tied to the housing industry. Why not diversify our economy with something that we have?

Ted Simons:
But you know that there are those who say these are great ideas. Once the free market gets there they're going to be wonderful ideas but right now, the free market isn't there.

Kris Mayes:
Well, the problem with that argument is that we're not talking about the free market. We're talking about utilities and if utilities had their way -- they're monopolies, they never would do renewable energy. Because it's not what they know. So my job as a regulator is to say to them, you're going down a foolish path. We need to diversify. We also know they're a -- there are huge environmental benefits associated with renewable energy. 93 billion-pounds of carbon dioxide into Arizona's atmosphere alone. Imagine if we increased that standard. The same goes for water saved.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to water conservation in a second. You mentioned some of the utilities are almost too gung ho. What kind of response do we get from the utilities?

Kris Mayes:
A different response than we saw five years ago. They were coming, dragging and kicking and screaming into the new era and frankly, I have to give some credit to companies like Arizona Public Service that has taken a lead role. They went out and signed a contract with the Spanish company. And not necessarily because they're controlled by a bunch of environmentalists. Let's face it. They see it's good for their bottom line. What they see coming is cap and trade, which is going to make carbon-fired electricity much more expensive. So the fact of the matter is that solar energy in four years is going to be cost competitive. Let's start to build it now.

Ted Simons:
When we talk about being green and these things, we don't think much about water and yet that's a crucial aspect and something that the commission is involved with.

Kris Mayes:
Well, first of all, we regulate 350 private water companies in the state, so we have a huge role in water conservation and the commission quietly has become a leader in water conservation. We have gone beyond any branch of Arizona government in requiring our companies to adopt water conservation measures. We have a provision that tells our water companies they cannot use groundwater for golf courses and we're making companies that are outside of an act of management area adopt more water conservation measures than are actually required by the Arizona department of water resources and I would like to expand that. And we have to. Regardless of the snow pack we've got, we're still in a drought.

Ted Simons:
When it comes to conservation issues, what kind of response from water companies?

Kris Mayes:
They've been a little bit reluctant to adopt those. But when you allow for some degree of cost recovery associated with the conservation measures they're a little bit more sanguine about it. Like energy companies when we ask them to adopt programs, the water companies are losing revenue when the people don't use the water so it's a difficult balance.

Ted Simons:
The state is in a financial crisis right now. We understand that. How do you get conservation measures, how do you get thinking about the future, those sorts of ideas involved in a situation that's pretty tough right now when even the present day is hard to figure out?

Kris Mayes:
Yeah, it is hard. And whether it's our renewable energy programs and trying to get people to put solar panels on the rooftops or energy efficiency programs that the utilities are trying to expand or water conservation measures, it becomes more and more difficult when people don't have the discretionary cash to spend. I think we're going to have to be more creative about how we adopt the programs. In the case of solar, I think we're going to --in the case of energy efficiency, you have to make the case that it's going to save you money over time and save the state of Arizona a lot of money over time. Energy efficiency is the cheapest form of electricity we can produce because it's not producing electricity.

Ted Simons:
That's the negawatt.

Kris Mayes:
Exactly, the negawatt. And it's negative energy and it comes at a cent a kilowatt. So we've got to offer rebates for air conditioning systems that are efficient and to help people make their homes more energy efficient.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us. The New Year brought a new commander at the Arizona National Guard. Major General Hugo Salazar replaced David Rataczak, who retired in December. Salazar is the first Hispanic to hold the state's top military post. Recently, Salazar spoke with "Horizonte" host Jose Cardenas.

Jose Cardenas:
Just a little bit about how you first got involved in the military.

Hugo Salazar:
Long story, because I've been in the military since 1983, but born and raised in Chicago and after college, in 1981, worked in Houston and I jokingly refer to the fact that I'm one of the first recorded victims of the very popular "Be All That You Can Be" Army campaign. It came on the television and I felt the military was a good option and it worked out well.

Jose Cardenas:
As I understand it, you'd graduated from college and had a promising career in the sporting goods industry and saw the commercial and changed your life.

Hugo Salazar:
Pretty much. I saw it as an opportunity. I was still 23 years old and thought it was something different. I thought it would be something I would want to do before my life ended and I didn't know I was going to make a career of it. I thought I'd go in, maybe do a tour. And then go back to the civilian sector, but that's not happened and I've been wearing a uniform since then.

Jose Cardenas:
Six years in the Army and then you went with the National Guard.

Hugo Salazar:
Yeah.

Jose Cardenas:
Tell us about your National Guard career.

Hugo Salazar:
I came out in 1989 and left the active duty army and I joined the National Guard.

Jose Cardenas:
Here in Arizona?

Hugo Salazar:
Here in Arizona and came out to Arizona because I wanted to get into the private business and I bought a small charter bus company so for several years, I was running the business and being a traditional guardsman, worked at command level as a Captain. And then in 1983, asked to work on the state's Joint Counter-Narcotics Taskforce and thought it would be for a short period of time as an active duty National Guard soldier, but it's turned into 17 years.

Jose Cardenas:
Explain the difference between traditional National Guardsmen and the other category is active National Guardsmen?

Hugo Salazar:
Active duty guardsman mean full time National Guard. There's a lot of different terms but there's a part-time traditional, those soldiers that typically people think are the National Guard soldiers. They come one weekend a month. Usually the first weekend. They come in and do the training and do an annual training for two or three weeks during the summer. Usually in the summer. And periodically attend a military school for professional education or promotion. Obviously, soldiers can't just show up on a Saturday morning. They have the vehicles primed and the fuel there and the logistics and all the training. So all of the units have full-time National Guard.

Jose Cardenas:
And in Arizona, how many are there?

Hugo Salazar:
We have 8,000 army and airmen total. 5500 on the army and 2500 in the air national guard, and full-time National Guard, we have about 2400, which are full-time federal technicians or active guard reserve.

Jose Cardenas:
You wear a couple of hats; one has to do with emergency management.

Hugo Salazar:
Yes. On the National Guard when we were talking earlier about the traditional and the full time, one of the requirements to be full time is that you still have to be a traditional guardsman, you have to have a military duty assignment. As the acting general, my official title is the acting general. That's the position I sit -- see on the military document, but for the governor, I'm the director of the department of Emergency and Military Affairs.

Jose Cardenas:
And what does that mean in terms of -- forest fires, does the National Guard play a role?

Hugo Salazar:
My department has four programs. The Arizona Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, we also have the joint programs which oversees project challenge and some other state functions and accounting functions for the organization and then also have the Arizona emergency management division, which is responsible for assisting any kind of response for the state, for floods. Search and rescue type operations, and many times the agency needs military support, particularly in search and rescue, where aviation are called out to help with a situation to -- maybe an example would be flooding. If the roads are blocked, aviation is a great asset to take some medical equipment, supplies, and etc.

Jose Cardenas:
General, we're almost out of time. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the National Guard and how do you intend to respond?

Hugo Salazar:
I can't tell you how proud I am to be in charge of the organization. But the biggest challenge is just to continue what we're doing. My personal agenda, if you want to call it, is to be a cheerleader. To increase the awareness of the National Guard because there's a misconception that the National Guard is just a weekend a month soldiers. People don't understand all of the things we do. They don't know we have a Singapore battalion and a state partnership program. Soldiers go there and come here for training and exchange of information and many different scopes of areas. We have a project challenge. We do an incredible number of community support functions and activities and my job is to be the cheerleader.

Jose Cardenas:
And educate the public at large.

Hugo Salazar:
It's tough being a National Guard soldier. The sacrifices that the families make. It's common for soldiers to leave for over a year. We had an embedded training team in Afghanistan. After being gone for 11 and a half months and seeing the community that comes out. And seeing the families is one of the great things about being in the National Guard.

Jose Cardenas:
General, again, congratulations. Hope to have you back on "Horizonte" to discuss this further. Take care.

Ted Simons:
Coming up on "Horizon" -- Jan Brewer became Arizona's new governor and state lawmakers are focusing on spending cuts to solve the state's budget crisis. Get the story behind the headlines on the journalists' roundtable, Friday at 7:00 on. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

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