Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 12, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Legislative Update

  |   Video
  • Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times joins us to talk about the big issues at the state legislature.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
  • Will Humble - Assistant director, Public Health Preparedness, Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Dana Naimark - President and C.E.O. , Children's Action Alliance
Category: Legislature

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Tonight on "Horizon", Representative John Shadegg bows out of the race for Arizona's third congressional district. We talk about that plus news from the state legislature. Arizona has now earned the highest flu activity designation given to states. So, if you haven't had your flu shot yet, is it too late? We'll answer that. Plus health and learning go hand-in-hand, and a statewide event aims to make sure eligible children have low-cost health insurance. Those stories next on "Horizon".

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Just recently he was raising campaign funds and talking about his ability to win another term. Now Representative John Shadegg says he will not seek re-election to congress. Meantime here at the state capitol several bills are getting attention. Some of those deal with illegal immigration issues. State lawmakers are also working on budget deficit revisions. Joining me now with a legislative update is Jim Small from the "Arizona Capitol Times."

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons:
We were thinking we were going to be talking budget, budget, budget and all of the sudden, John Shadegg is not going to run.

Jim Small:
Yesterday's announcement came as a surprise to most people who follow politics in Arizona and in congress. The story is looking at who is going to run on the republican side to replace him, and at the capitol, there is a couple of big names, Senator Jim Waring, and House Speaker Jim Weiers is the other big name. Both are very good fundraisers, good campaigners. It will be interesting to see if either of them end up taking the plunge.

Ted Simons:
How about the democrats? How are they maneuvering on this?

Jim Small:
It looks like they will line up behind Bob Lord. He's already raised half a million dollars. He has done very well comparatively to people in past years, and that district thus far in the campaign, and I think he's got to be probably, you know, getting down on his knees and praying to his god, that, you know, thanking his god that Shadegg went ahead and bowed out of the race.

Ted Simons:
As far as Waring and Weiers, last year of their term so they don't need to resign.

Jim Small:
State law requires if not in the last year of their term to give up their seat if they are going to run for another elected office. Weiers and Waring elected in 2006, this is the final year of their term.

Ted Simons:
Buzz that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon might be interested. Sounds like he is not.

Jim Smalls:
Yeah, we heard that today, and he actually held a press conference and came out and said I'm not interested in running for it, but what I am interested in doing is getting behind whichever candidate, democrat, republican who is going to support the needs of the city of Phoenix and advocate for the nation's fifth largest city in Washington D.C.

Ted Simons:
Is this uphill for the democrats, or is the fact that Shadegg is out of the way a good chance that democrats have?

Jim Smalls:
Congressman Shadegg had served since 1994, part of the incoming contract of America group when republicans took control of congress. Democrats, they still have an uphill climb. The republican voter registration advantage is very steep. I think they're banking on the swell of people dissatisfied with republican politics from 2006 carrying over to 2008.

Ted Simons:
Revenue shortfall getting worse, is the pace increasing at all in these negotiations?

Jim Smalls:
Not really. As far as I know they haven't met since last Monday. Negotiations were put off last week. Not all negotiators were present. They came back yesterday, didn't have any meetings. As far as I know they didn't have any meetings scheduled for today. They're trying to work something out to get house and senate republicans and democrats back together.

Ted Simons:
House and senate democrats and republicans back together or leadership back together. Is there still grumbling that the rank and file do not know what is going on.

Jim Smalls:
There has been grumbling among the back bench republicans and democrats that say, look, you know, we're elected, too. We're a part of the 60 or the 30 and we deserve to have our say in what's going on here, and part of that frustration what you're seeing is in the house and senate, the appropriations chair committees are upset with the slow pace of negotiations. They are trying to push forward with their own budgets. Try to vote them out. Say negotiators, get your act together. Let's move this process along. We're four months into it and we haven't really done anything.

Ted Simons:
Is that going to work? Is that viable at all?

Jim Smalls:
I think time will tell. I talked to Representative Russell Pearce who chairs the house appropriations committee and he hopes to hear either a budget bill tomorrow or call a special meeting for Thursday and put the bill through that way. Whether or not he has the votes or whether it will amount to anything remains to be seen.

Ted Simons:
How much is the absence of the senate president in some of these negotiations factoring into the frustration down there?

Jim Smalls:
It depends who you talk to. Senate president bee told us that he left at a time when they had a natural break in negotiations, they could go back and do small group meetings with republicans and democrats and bounce the ideas off of them that they had been talking about during the negotiations and hopefully come back and get agreements going. But if you talk to some of the other people involved in negotiations, they have privately said, you know, look, maybe we are at a point where you could take a break. If he was here, he wouldn't have taken a break. We would have kept meeting.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. Employer sanctions, I know a lot of bills coming through and a lot of folks with ideas on how to tinker with the law as it makes its way through the appeals process. Where do we stand on this?

Jim Smalls:
Legislative speaking, a number of bills have been filed. None assigned yet. It seems likely most will be put in the House's Homeland Security and Property Rights Committee, Representative Ward Nichols, a strong -- of the tough sanctions that Representative Russell Pearce endorses. It is unlikely that any of the measures that are supported by the business community that would, you know, really take the penalties down are even going to get a hearing, much less get passed.

Ted Simons:
I can't let you go without information, latest on leadership apparently wanting another shot at a ban on gay marriage. Where is this coming from? Why is this being talked about? How far do you think it is going to go?

Jim Smalls:
I would imagine they will be able to get the votes to put this on the ballot. It has only been two years since they rejected a similar proposal that was more wide reaching, but I don't know that your standard voter, run of the mill voter is going to see the difference between the last one and this one. A lot of people think that this might just be a ploy to try to get some of the more conservative voters out to the polls in Arizona and help stem the tide of republicans losing their seats.

Ted Simons:
Critics saying this is divisive, unnecessary, at the capitol, among lawmakers when something like this pops up, does this get the visions going stronger?

Jim Smalls:
It does. A number of lawmakers, democrats mostly all will say this is a divisive issue. We shouldn't be tackling these kinds of things. We should leave people's personal lives alone. In republican circles people say the same thing, most won't say it publicly, they grumble quietly to themselves or the whispers that you hear. The reality is that it is a big issue for a lot of republican voters. And when it gets on the ballot, it does draw people to the polls. And, you know, for the most part they roll with the punches, I think.

Ted Simons:
Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Jim Smalls:
Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons:
We are coming up on the height of flu season. Here in Arizona flu activity is at a widespread level. That is the highest designation named by the Centers for Disease Control. Here is a look at that, plus how to get more information about influenza.

Merry Lucero:
The centers for disease control classified flu activity into five levels. No activity, sporadic, local, regional, widespread. THE CDC issues a widespread classification when there is an increase in flu and flu-like illnesses and recent laboratory confirmed flu in almost half of the state's regions. There have been almost 1500 laboratory confirmed cases reported for the 2007-2008 flu season in Arizona. Cases have been reported in 13 of 15 counties, most in Maricopa County with 680. Coconino has had 263, Pima 210, Graham, 172. Those numbers likely represent a fraction of the actual number of cases. Arizona's flu season can last as late as May. It is not too late to get a flu shot. A list of providers is available at Community Information and Referral. You can call 602-263-8856 or go to cir.org. For more information about influenza, go to azdhs.gov/flu.

Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk more about influenza in Arizona is Will Humble, assistant director of public health preparedness for Arizona department of health services.

Will Humble:
It means it is as bad as it gets. We saw 50\% increase in flu cases between last week and this week. It is going gang busters. And by the way, it was bad enough last week. It's really starting to ramp up. It is time for folks to start paying attention to those things their grandmother taught them about washing their hands and coughing into their sleeve.

Ted Simons:
Are there parts of the state getting hit harder than other areas?

Will Humble:
Three or four weeks ago primarily in the urban centers, Phoenix and Tucson. What we have seen happen over the last couple of weeks it spread statewide. It is in all corners of the state, up, down, sideways, bad everywhere across the state, hence, the widespread label.

Ted Simons:
Is that typical to start in urban areas and spread outward?

Will Humble:
It usually is. Sometimes we see it spread more quickly, it took a couple of weeks to get out of the urban centers, probably a little longer than normal. There is no where to hide anymore.

Ted Simons:
This may be a dumb question, but I will ask it anyway. Does the weather play a factor in these flu cycles?

Will Humble:
Yeah.

Ted Simons:
It would seem like it would, but it is a virus, so not necessarily.

Will Humble: In general, you could say yes, it does. Because we see it always in the winter months. But it is not so sensitive to say, well, you know, the flu is bad when it is 60, but not when it is 74. It is not like that. The flu is bad when it is in the lower temperature ranges and as the season progresses, it gets a little better. We've seen flu cases in the outbreaks continue some of the years until April or May, and you know how hot it is then. So, it takes a while to taper off, but, yeah, I mean, it's hard to spread a virus when it is 113.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask regarding the time of this particular outbreak and this particular widespread designation, is it any different than we usually see? Is this about the time of year you see it?

Will Humble:
If you look at a ten-year trend, this is typical to see a peak in mid February, early March. It is pretty normal to see it in February. Last year we saw a peak right around the holidays, right before New Year's. Last year we would say an earlier than normal year. This year is typical.

Ted Simons:
It you have an earlier than normal year, do you occasionally get twin peaks?

Will Humble:
No, we were just talking about this. In the last ten years, I haven't seen that kind of thing in Arizona. You tend to see a peak, and it drops off and it gets better. We haven't peaked yet. 50\% increase between last week and this week. That's pretty bad.

Ted Simons:
How does that compare with other states?

Will Humble:
We are in the boat with most of the rest of the country. If you look across the C.D.C. map, you can see where the flu is bad and it's bad all across the country. There is a handful of pockets here and there that really don't have widespread flu, but we've got it just like everybody else.

Ted Simons:
Is there anything unusual about this particular strain of flu?

Will Humble:
Not necessarily. Towards the -- about a month or so ago, we started to see an increase in a strain of the flu that isn't in the vaccine. It is not a big component of the epidemic that we're seeing right now in Arizona, but it is out there. So, there is -- there is a strain that is circulating out there that is not covered by the vaccine. And that may be an indication that we will have a worse than normal flu season.

Ted Simons:
Again, the reason I asked the question is I want to make sure that whatever this flu is can be addressed by the vaccine everyone got back in October, September, November.

Will Humble:
The vast majority of the strains we see circulating in Arizona are covered by the vaccine.

Ted Simons:
Right now is it too late to get a vaccine?

Will Humble:
It is never too late to get a vaccine. You saw the web site cir.org, you can query that web site. By zip code you can find out where the flu clinics are out there. It takes ten days, two weeks for the antibodies to ramp up and protect yourself. Guess what? We will still see flu cases in March. It is a good time to go out there right now.

Ted Simons:
There is the phone number and the web site. We had it on the screen there for folks to get the flu shot. Not too late. How do you convince people to get a flu shot, especially when I never get the flu, why should I bother with this?

Will Humble:
It only takes once. People you describe are the folks that have to learn the hard way. Influenza is not like a rhino virus or regular cold virus. It hits you hard. You have a 101, sometimes 102, or even more fever. Chills, chills, achie-ness, difficulty breathing, sometimes progresses to pneumonia. Influenza is nothing, you know, it is nothing to ignore. It is a serious illness. So, you know, some people have to learn the hard way.

Ted Simons:
And the flu vaccines do work.

Will Humble:
Yes, they do.

Ted Simons:
Will, good to see you.

Ted Simons:
There are an estimated 130,000 children in Arizona who qualify for kids care but are not enrolled. A statewide enrollment event called "love your kids" is coming up this Thursday, Valentine's Day, to enroll eligible children in kids care. We'll talk more about the event in a moment. First, Merry Lucero examines the link between health care and learning at one valley school district.

Merry Lucero:
This student and her mother are heading to a health center at a school in the elementary school district. A physician's assistant examines the student and prescribes medicine if needed. It is through a partnership with Phoenix Baptist hospital. This free program is not only valuable to the student's health but necessary for learning.

Jim Rice:
There are students that are ill and the physician's assistant will look at them provide them with a prescription, and they're on their way to, you know, getting ready to school by getting well.

Merry Lucero:
Alhambra Elementary School is in central Phoenix.

Jim Rice:
We have 15 schools. Right at 15,000 children attending our schools. Kindergarten through 8th grade school. 78\% of our children come from Latino families, 10\% Anglo, 7\% African American, two percent Asian families and another two percent Native American families. 89\% of our children are on free and reduced lunches. That gives you a little bit about our socioeconomic background.

Merry Lucero:
Dr. Rice believes there are a large number of children in the district who are eligible for kids care, but not enrolled, and there are several reasons for that.

Jim Rice:
First re qualification process that they have to go through every six months. Parents sometimes don't know that. Or parents don't have the transportation to get them to the department of economic security to go through that qualifying process. Some parents are not aware that the kids care is available to them. And then that certainly -- and we work with D.E.S. in providing information and sending information out to parents, but still there is a communication piece that might be missed.

Merry Lucero:
And when these students are ill and don't get health care they missed more school and have a harder time learning and catching up.

Jim Rice:
We're instructing children to learn English. We're trying to give children that good foundation to be good readers, to be good writers, to do mathematics, and then when you have a child whose basic needs are not being met because they do not have the resources to handle that cold or asthma or lice from time to time that children get and have to be removed from school, it makes it difficult to do the content area to prepare children in the areas of reading, math, writing when they're having health issues.

Nurse:
Okay. You can have a seat there.

Merry Lucero:
Health care, like hygiene or clean clothing, is a basic need, says Rice. One he encourages parents to provide their children by enrolling in kids care if they are eligible.

Jim Rice:
In registering and signing your children up, it really is a very easy process. And keeping track of the six months, too, when that is going to require a reevaluation and getting that appointment also set up so that the parents can make sure that their children continue to be eligible for health services.

Ted Simons:
Here to talk more about the "Love Your Kids" event is Dana Naimark, President and C.E.O. of the Children's Action Alliance. Dana, thanks for joining us. Good to see you.

Dana Naimark: Thanks.

Ted Simons: What is Love Your Kids day?

Dana Naimark: It is a statewide enrollment event. Helps families enroll their families in kids care. It is happening all across the state, 100 enrollment sites and community partners involved to help students enroll.

Ted Simons:
Is it rural and urban?

Dan Naimark:
Rural and urban, many communities, Holbrook, Chandler, Phoenix, Tempe, at schools, hospitals, health clinics, other community food banks, places like that in the community.

Ted Simons:
How do you raise awareness on something like a program like kids care to folks who are eligible but might be intimidated, might be confused, might be looking at the requirements and go I give up, I can't figure this out.

Dana Naimark:
That is what this is about. It takes a public private partnership. Many private organizations are stepping up to the plate to help out. Getting the word out over and over again, on radio, TV, at community centers where people go every week, month, with their kids, especially at schools, and that's something new, thanks to legislation last year, thanks to the governor and our legislature, schools can now be full partners in outreach for kids care.

Ted Simons:
We talk about kids care and the fact that this event is enrolling kids into kids care, let's talk about kids care and what it is.

Dana Naimark:
Kids care is low cost health insurance for children, uninsured children younger than 19 in Arizona, it includes checkups, dental, vision, all of the things we need to keep kids healthy that we heard Jim talk about, why it is so important for kids at school to be healthy and have access to health care.

Ted Simons:
How much does kids care cost?

Dana Naimark:
It costs up to $35 per month, and that is for a family that has more than one child enrolled. It could be lower than that. But $35 a month would be the highest cost to the parent.

Ted Simons:
Along with that information, what does a qualifying family need to know about kids care and back a little to the earlier question, how best to get that information to them?

Dana Naimark:
Right. What they need to know is that they might qualify, even if they've never been getting state benefits of any kind before, even if they are working full-time, they might qualify. And they should take a look at the web site and see what the basic criteria are, but really they should call and check it out because a lot of families who think it is not for them, they're missing out on something that could be benefiting their children.

Ted Simons:
Can you give us an overview, basics of the requirements and what people might need to know to get a head start?

Dana Naimark:
Sure. There are income requirements and so it depends on your family size, but if you are in a family of four earning up to 40,000 you might qualify, and if you have a larger family, you could be earning more than that, and it is for children 19 years old and younger.

Ted Simons:
This event, does it also give an opportunity for parents to look into health care as well or is this basically focused on kids?

Dana Naimark:
It's focused on kids, but we are fortunate in Arizona that parents are eligible as well, and we do have about 13,000 parents right now who get their coverage through kids care, and we're working very hard to remind our state legislators of how important that coverage is as well.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about that. How concerned are you in these troubling times as far as the budget goes that kids care is going to wind up on the curb?

Dana Naimark:
Kids care has shown up on possible budget cuts. There are only two legislators that have plans -- we're hoping it stays that way, that they are the only folks that are interested in cutting kids care. It is a mistake to move backward in health care coverage for kids at a time when states around the country and voters are very interested in moving forward for children.

Ted Simons:
And in this state, with the budget concerns, I guess you could look at something like this event, this love your kids day, what if it works really well, can the state afford a whole bunch of new kids in kids care?

Dana Naimark:
The good thing is it is extremely cost effective. Health care coverage for children saves us money in the long run, children who are uninsured end up having higher health care costs and going to the emergency room and shifting health care costs to all of the rest of us. Also, we get three federal dollars for every state dollar we put into kids care. We're fortunate that our legislature did build in growth in kids care this year. They were thinking about enrollment events and awareness just like this one. Most of our legislators have the goal of enrolling more children and we share that goal.

Ted Simons:
Why hasn't this information -- the event is made to get the information out. Why hasn't it gotten out before now?

Dana Naimark:
It has been a slow movement to get the information out, partly because when kids care was created, legislators did not want to get the word out. That had a chilling effect for quite a long time. I think we've turned the corner. As I said, great legislative support for getting the word out about kids care. We actually have state money in outreach for the first time ever. So, we really have a shared goal of increasing our rate of children who have health insurance.

Ted Simons:
Once again, to get more information about the event and kids care

Dana Naimark:
Loveyourkidsaz.org.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

Ted Simons:
Coming up tomorrow on "Horizon," Senate President Tim Bee and House Speaker Jim Weiers talk about legislative issues from the republican leadership perspective. That's tomorrow on "Horizon." Please visit our web site at azPBS.org/Horizon for video and transcripts of Horizon. That's it for now. Thanks for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

Announcer: "
Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Love Your Kids

  |   Video
  • Roughly 130,000 children in Arizona qualify for KidsCare but are not enrolled. "Love Your Kids" is the first-ever statewide KidsCare enrollment event. Its goal is to raise awareness for the low-cost health insurance available to many of Arizona's working families, and to help qualifying families apply. Dana Naimark, president & CEO of Childrenís Action Alliance, tells us more about the event.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
  • Will Humble - Assistant director, Public Health Preparedness, Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Dana Naimark - President and C.E.O. , Children's Action Alliance


View Transcript

Ted Simons: Tonight on "Horizon", Representative John Shadegg bows out of the race for Arizona's third congressional district. We talk about that plus news from the state legislature. Arizona has now earned the highest flu activity designation given to states. So, if you haven't had your flu shot yet, is it too late? We'll answer that. Plus health and learning go hand-in-hand, and a statewide event aims to make sure eligible children have low-cost health insurance. Those stories next on "Horizon".

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Just recently he was raising campaign funds and talking about his ability to win another term. Now Representative John Shadegg says he will not seek re-election to congress. Meantime here at the state capitol several bills are getting attention. Some of those deal with illegal immigration issues. State lawmakers are also working on budget deficit revisions. Joining me now with a legislative update is Jim Small from the "Arizona Capitol Times."

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons:
We were thinking we were going to be talking budget, budget, budget and all of the sudden, John Shadegg is not going to run.

Jim Small:
Yesterday's announcement came as a surprise to most people who follow politics in Arizona and in congress. The story is looking at who is going to run on the republican side to replace him, and at the capitol, there is a couple of big names, Senator Jim Waring, and House Speaker Jim Weiers is the other big name. Both are very good fundraisers, good campaigners. It will be interesting to see if either of them end up taking the plunge.

Ted Simons:
How about the democrats? How are they maneuvering on this?

Jim Small:
It looks like they will line up behind Bob Lord. He's already raised half a million dollars. He has done very well comparatively to people in past years, and that district thus far in the campaign, and I think he's got to be probably, you know, getting down on his knees and praying to his god, that, you know, thanking his god that Shadegg went ahead and bowed out of the race.

Ted Simons:
As far as Waring and Weiers, last year of their term so they don't need to resign.

Jim Small:
State law requires if not in the last year of their term to give up their seat if they are going to run for another elected office. Weiers and Waring elected in 2006, this is the final year of their term.

Ted Simons:
Buzz that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon might be interested. Sounds like he is not.

Jim Smalls:
Yeah, we heard that today, and he actually held a press conference and came out and said I'm not interested in running for it, but what I am interested in doing is getting behind whichever candidate, democrat, republican who is going to support the needs of the city of Phoenix and advocate for the nation's fifth largest city in Washington D.C.

Ted Simons:
Is this uphill for the democrats, or is the fact that Shadegg is out of the way a good chance that democrats have?

Jim Smalls:
Congressman Shadegg had served since 1994, part of the incoming contract of America group when republicans took control of congress. Democrats, they still have an uphill climb. The republican voter registration advantage is very steep. I think they're banking on the swell of people dissatisfied with republican politics from 2006 carrying over to 2008.

Ted Simons:
Revenue shortfall getting worse, is the pace increasing at all in these negotiations?

Jim Smalls:
Not really. As far as I know they haven't met since last Monday. Negotiations were put off last week. Not all negotiators were present. They came back yesterday, didn't have any meetings. As far as I know they didn't have any meetings scheduled for today. They're trying to work something out to get house and senate republicans and democrats back together.

Ted Simons:
House and senate democrats and republicans back together or leadership back together. Is there still grumbling that the rank and file do not know what is going on.

Jim Smalls:
There has been grumbling among the back bench republicans and democrats that say, look, you know, we're elected, too. We're a part of the 60 or the 30 and we deserve to have our say in what's going on here, and part of that frustration what you're seeing is in the house and senate, the appropriations chair committees are upset with the slow pace of negotiations. They are trying to push forward with their own budgets. Try to vote them out. Say negotiators, get your act together. Let's move this process along. We're four months into it and we haven't really done anything.

Ted Simons:
Is that going to work? Is that viable at all?

Jim Smalls:
I think time will tell. I talked to Representative Russell Pearce who chairs the house appropriations committee and he hopes to hear either a budget bill tomorrow or call a special meeting for Thursday and put the bill through that way. Whether or not he has the votes or whether it will amount to anything remains to be seen.

Ted Simons:
How much is the absence of the senate president in some of these negotiations factoring into the frustration down there?

Jim Smalls:
It depends who you talk to. Senate president bee told us that he left at a time when they had a natural break in negotiations, they could go back and do small group meetings with republicans and democrats and bounce the ideas off of them that they had been talking about during the negotiations and hopefully come back and get agreements going. But if you talk to some of the other people involved in negotiations, they have privately said, you know, look, maybe we are at a point where you could take a break. If he was here, he wouldn't have taken a break. We would have kept meeting.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. Employer sanctions, I know a lot of bills coming through and a lot of folks with ideas on how to tinker with the law as it makes its way through the appeals process. Where do we stand on this?

Jim Smalls:
Legislative speaking, a number of bills have been filed. None assigned yet. It seems likely most will be put in the House's Homeland Security and Property Rights Committee, Representative Ward Nichols, a strong -- of the tough sanctions that Representative Russell Pearce endorses. It is unlikely that any of the measures that are supported by the business community that would, you know, really take the penalties down are even going to get a hearing, much less get passed.

Ted Simons:
I can't let you go without information, latest on leadership apparently wanting another shot at a ban on gay marriage. Where is this coming from? Why is this being talked about? How far do you think it is going to go?

Jim Smalls:
I would imagine they will be able to get the votes to put this on the ballot. It has only been two years since they rejected a similar proposal that was more wide reaching, but I don't know that your standard voter, run of the mill voter is going to see the difference between the last one and this one. A lot of people think that this might just be a ploy to try to get some of the more conservative voters out to the polls in Arizona and help stem the tide of republicans losing their seats.

Ted Simons:
Critics saying this is divisive, unnecessary, at the capitol, among lawmakers when something like this pops up, does this get the visions going stronger?

Jim Smalls:
It does. A number of lawmakers, democrats mostly all will say this is a divisive issue. We shouldn't be tackling these kinds of things. We should leave people's personal lives alone. In republican circles people say the same thing, most won't say it publicly, they grumble quietly to themselves or the whispers that you hear. The reality is that it is a big issue for a lot of republican voters. And when it gets on the ballot, it does draw people to the polls. And, you know, for the most part they roll with the punches, I think.

Ted Simons:
Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Jim Smalls:
Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons:
We are coming up on the height of flu season. Here in Arizona flu activity is at a widespread level. That is the highest designation named by the Centers for Disease Control. Here is a look at that, plus how to get more information about influenza.

Merry Lucero:
The centers for disease control classified flu activity into five levels. No activity, sporadic, local, regional, widespread. THE CDC issues a widespread classification when there is an increase in flu and flu-like illnesses and recent laboratory confirmed flu in almost half of the state's regions. There have been almost 1500 laboratory confirmed cases reported for the 2007-2008 flu season in Arizona. Cases have been reported in 13 of 15 counties, most in Maricopa County with 680. Coconino has had 263, Pima 210, Graham, 172. Those numbers likely represent a fraction of the actual number of cases. Arizona's flu season can last as late as May. It is not too late to get a flu shot. A list of providers is available at Community Information and Referral. You can call 602-263-8856 or go to cir.org. For more information about influenza, go to azdhs.gov/flu.

Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk more about influenza in Arizona is Will Humble, assistant director of public health preparedness for Arizona department of health services.

Will Humble:
It means it is as bad as it gets. We saw 50\% increase in flu cases between last week and this week. It is going gang busters. And by the way, it was bad enough last week. It's really starting to ramp up. It is time for folks to start paying attention to those things their grandmother taught them about washing their hands and coughing into their sleeve.

Ted Simons:
Are there parts of the state getting hit harder than other areas?

Will Humble:
Three or four weeks ago primarily in the urban centers, Phoenix and Tucson. What we have seen happen over the last couple of weeks it spread statewide. It is in all corners of the state, up, down, sideways, bad everywhere across the state, hence, the widespread label.

Ted Simons:
Is that typical to start in urban areas and spread outward?

Will Humble:
It usually is. Sometimes we see it spread more quickly, it took a couple of weeks to get out of the urban centers, probably a little longer than normal. There is no where to hide anymore.

Ted Simons:
This may be a dumb question, but I will ask it anyway. Does the weather play a factor in these flu cycles?

Will Humble:
Yeah.

Ted Simons:
It would seem like it would, but it is a virus, so not necessarily.

Will Humble: In general, you could say yes, it does. Because we see it always in the winter months. But it is not so sensitive to say, well, you know, the flu is bad when it is 60, but not when it is 74. It is not like that. The flu is bad when it is in the lower temperature ranges and as the season progresses, it gets a little better. We've seen flu cases in the outbreaks continue some of the years until April or May, and you know how hot it is then. So, it takes a while to taper off, but, yeah, I mean, it's hard to spread a virus when it is 113.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask regarding the time of this particular outbreak and this particular widespread designation, is it any different than we usually see? Is this about the time of year you see it?

Will Humble:
If you look at a ten-year trend, this is typical to see a peak in mid February, early March. It is pretty normal to see it in February. Last year we saw a peak right around the holidays, right before New Year's. Last year we would say an earlier than normal year. This year is typical.

Ted Simons:
It you have an earlier than normal year, do you occasionally get twin peaks?

Will Humble:
No, we were just talking about this. In the last ten years, I haven't seen that kind of thing in Arizona. You tend to see a peak, and it drops off and it gets better. We haven't peaked yet. 50\% increase between last week and this week. That's pretty bad.

Ted Simons:
How does that compare with other states?

Will Humble:
We are in the boat with most of the rest of the country. If you look across the C.D.C. map, you can see where the flu is bad and it's bad all across the country. There is a handful of pockets here and there that really don't have widespread flu, but we've got it just like everybody else.

Ted Simons:
Is there anything unusual about this particular strain of flu?

Will Humble:
Not necessarily. Towards the -- about a month or so ago, we started to see an increase in a strain of the flu that isn't in the vaccine. It is not a big component of the epidemic that we're seeing right now in Arizona, but it is out there. So, there is -- there is a strain that is circulating out there that is not covered by the vaccine. And that may be an indication that we will have a worse than normal flu season.

Ted Simons:
Again, the reason I asked the question is I want to make sure that whatever this flu is can be addressed by the vaccine everyone got back in October, September, November.

Will Humble:
The vast majority of the strains we see circulating in Arizona are covered by the vaccine.

Ted Simons:
Right now is it too late to get a vaccine?

Will Humble:
It is never too late to get a vaccine. You saw the web site cir.org, you can query that web site. By zip code you can find out where the flu clinics are out there. It takes ten days, two weeks for the antibodies to ramp up and protect yourself. Guess what? We will still see flu cases in March. It is a good time to go out there right now.

Ted Simons:
There is the phone number and the web site. We had it on the screen there for folks to get the flu shot. Not too late. How do you convince people to get a flu shot, especially when I never get the flu, why should I bother with this?

Will Humble:
It only takes once. People you describe are the folks that have to learn the hard way. Influenza is not like a rhino virus or regular cold virus. It hits you hard. You have a 101, sometimes 102, or even more fever. Chills, chills, achie-ness, difficulty breathing, sometimes progresses to pneumonia. Influenza is nothing, you know, it is nothing to ignore. It is a serious illness. So, you know, some people have to learn the hard way.

Ted Simons:
And the flu vaccines do work.

Will Humble:
Yes, they do.

Ted Simons:
Will, good to see you.

Ted Simons:
There are an estimated 130,000 children in Arizona who qualify for kids care but are not enrolled. A statewide enrollment event called "love your kids" is coming up this Thursday, Valentine's Day, to enroll eligible children in kids care. We'll talk more about the event in a moment. First, Merry Lucero examines the link between health care and learning at one valley school district.

Merry Lucero:
This student and her mother are heading to a health center at a school in the elementary school district. A physician's assistant examines the student and prescribes medicine if needed. It is through a partnership with Phoenix Baptist hospital. This free program is not only valuable to the student's health but necessary for learning.

Jim Rice:
There are students that are ill and the physician's assistant will look at them provide them with a prescription, and they're on their way to, you know, getting ready to school by getting well.

Merry Lucero:
Alhambra Elementary School is in central Phoenix.

Jim Rice:
We have 15 schools. Right at 15,000 children attending our schools. Kindergarten through 8th grade school. 78\% of our children come from Latino families, 10\% Anglo, 7\% African American, two percent Asian families and another two percent Native American families. 89\% of our children are on free and reduced lunches. That gives you a little bit about our socioeconomic background.

Merry Lucero:
Dr. Rice believes there are a large number of children in the district who are eligible for kids care, but not enrolled, and there are several reasons for that.

Jim Rice:
First re qualification process that they have to go through every six months. Parents sometimes don't know that. Or parents don't have the transportation to get them to the department of economic security to go through that qualifying process. Some parents are not aware that the kids care is available to them. And then that certainly -- and we work with D.E.S. in providing information and sending information out to parents, but still there is a communication piece that might be missed.

Merry Lucero:
And when these students are ill and don't get health care they missed more school and have a harder time learning and catching up.

Jim Rice:
We're instructing children to learn English. We're trying to give children that good foundation to be good readers, to be good writers, to do mathematics, and then when you have a child whose basic needs are not being met because they do not have the resources to handle that cold or asthma or lice from time to time that children get and have to be removed from school, it makes it difficult to do the content area to prepare children in the areas of reading, math, writing when they're having health issues.

Nurse:
Okay. You can have a seat there.

Merry Lucero:
Health care, like hygiene or clean clothing, is a basic need, says Rice. One he encourages parents to provide their children by enrolling in kids care if they are eligible.

Jim Rice:
In registering and signing your children up, it really is a very easy process. And keeping track of the six months, too, when that is going to require a reevaluation and getting that appointment also set up so that the parents can make sure that their children continue to be eligible for health services.

Ted Simons:
Here to talk more about the "Love Your Kids" event is Dana Naimark, President and C.E.O. of the Children's Action Alliance. Dana, thanks for joining us. Good to see you.

Dana Naimark: Thanks.

Ted Simons: What is Love Your Kids day?

Dana Naimark: It is a statewide enrollment event. Helps families enroll their families in kids care. It is happening all across the state, 100 enrollment sites and community partners involved to help students enroll.

Ted Simons:
Is it rural and urban?

Dan Naimark:
Rural and urban, many communities, Holbrook, Chandler, Phoenix, Tempe, at schools, hospitals, health clinics, other community food banks, places like that in the community.

Ted Simons:
How do you raise awareness on something like a program like kids care to folks who are eligible but might be intimidated, might be confused, might be looking at the requirements and go I give up, I can't figure this out.

Dana Naimark:
That is what this is about. It takes a public private partnership. Many private organizations are stepping up to the plate to help out. Getting the word out over and over again, on radio, TV, at community centers where people go every week, month, with their kids, especially at schools, and that's something new, thanks to legislation last year, thanks to the governor and our legislature, schools can now be full partners in outreach for kids care.

Ted Simons:
We talk about kids care and the fact that this event is enrolling kids into kids care, let's talk about kids care and what it is.

Dana Naimark:
Kids care is low cost health insurance for children, uninsured children younger than 19 in Arizona, it includes checkups, dental, vision, all of the things we need to keep kids healthy that we heard Jim talk about, why it is so important for kids at school to be healthy and have access to health care.

Ted Simons:
How much does kids care cost?

Dana Naimark:
It costs up to $35 per month, and that is for a family that has more than one child enrolled. It could be lower than that. But $35 a month would be the highest cost to the parent.

Ted Simons:
Along with that information, what does a qualifying family need to know about kids care and back a little to the earlier question, how best to get that information to them?

Dana Naimark:
Right. What they need to know is that they might qualify, even if they've never been getting state benefits of any kind before, even if they are working full-time, they might qualify. And they should take a look at the web site and see what the basic criteria are, but really they should call and check it out because a lot of families who think it is not for them, they're missing out on something that could be benefiting their children.

Ted Simons:
Can you give us an overview, basics of the requirements and what people might need to know to get a head start?

Dana Naimark:
Sure. There are income requirements and so it depends on your family size, but if you are in a family of four earning up to 40,000 you might qualify, and if you have a larger family, you could be earning more than that, and it is for children 19 years old and younger.

Ted Simons:
This event, does it also give an opportunity for parents to look into health care as well or is this basically focused on kids?

Dana Naimark:
It's focused on kids, but we are fortunate in Arizona that parents are eligible as well, and we do have about 13,000 parents right now who get their coverage through kids care, and we're working very hard to remind our state legislators of how important that coverage is as well.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about that. How concerned are you in these troubling times as far as the budget goes that kids care is going to wind up on the curb?

Dana Naimark:
Kids care has shown up on possible budget cuts. There are only two legislators that have plans -- we're hoping it stays that way, that they are the only folks that are interested in cutting kids care. It is a mistake to move backward in health care coverage for kids at a time when states around the country and voters are very interested in moving forward for children.

Ted Simons:
And in this state, with the budget concerns, I guess you could look at something like this event, this love your kids day, what if it works really well, can the state afford a whole bunch of new kids in kids care?

Dana Naimark:
The good thing is it is extremely cost effective. Health care coverage for children saves us money in the long run, children who are uninsured end up having higher health care costs and going to the emergency room and shifting health care costs to all of the rest of us. Also, we get three federal dollars for every state dollar we put into kids care. We're fortunate that our legislature did build in growth in kids care this year. They were thinking about enrollment events and awareness just like this one. Most of our legislators have the goal of enrolling more children and we share that goal.

Ted Simons:
Why hasn't this information -- the event is made to get the information out. Why hasn't it gotten out before now?

Dana Naimark:
It has been a slow movement to get the information out, partly because when kids care was created, legislators did not want to get the word out. That had a chilling effect for quite a long time. I think we've turned the corner. As I said, great legislative support for getting the word out about kids care. We actually have state money in outreach for the first time ever. So, we really have a shared goal of increasing our rate of children who have health insurance.

Ted Simons:
Once again, to get more information about the event and kids care

Dana Naimark:
Loveyourkidsaz.org.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

Ted Simons:
Coming up tomorrow on "Horizon," Senate President Tim Bee and House Speaker Jim Weiers talk about legislative issues from the republican leadership perspective. That's tomorrow on "Horizon." Please visit our web site at azPBS.org/Horizon for video and transcripts of Horizon. That's it for now. Thanks for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

Announcer: "
Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Widespread Flu

  |   Video
  • The flu has now spread across Arizona, earning the state the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionís highest flu-activity designation. Will Humble, assistant director for health preparedness for the Arizona Department of Health Services, shares the latest news on the flu and talks about the importance of prevention.
Guests:
  • Jim Small - Arizona Capitol Times
  • Will Humble - Assistant director, Public Health Preparedness, Arizona Department of Health Services
  • Dana Naimark - President and C.E.O. , Children's Action Alliance
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Tonight on "Horizon", Representative John Shadegg bows out of the race for Arizona's third congressional district. We talk about that plus news from the state legislature. Arizona has now earned the highest flu activity designation given to states. So, if you haven't had your flu shot yet, is it too late? We'll answer that. Plus health and learning go hand-in-hand, and a statewide event aims to make sure eligible children have low-cost health insurance. Those stories next on "Horizon".

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Just recently he was raising campaign funds and talking about his ability to win another term. Now Representative John Shadegg says he will not seek re-election to congress. Meantime here at the state capitol several bills are getting attention. Some of those deal with illegal immigration issues. State lawmakers are also working on budget deficit revisions. Joining me now with a legislative update is Jim Small from the "Arizona Capitol Times."

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us.

Jim Small:
Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons:
We were thinking we were going to be talking budget, budget, budget and all of the sudden, John Shadegg is not going to run.

Jim Small:
Yesterday's announcement came as a surprise to most people who follow politics in Arizona and in congress. The story is looking at who is going to run on the republican side to replace him, and at the capitol, there is a couple of big names, Senator Jim Waring, and House Speaker Jim Weiers is the other big name. Both are very good fundraisers, good campaigners. It will be interesting to see if either of them end up taking the plunge.

Ted Simons:
How about the democrats? How are they maneuvering on this?

Jim Small:
It looks like they will line up behind Bob Lord. He's already raised half a million dollars. He has done very well comparatively to people in past years, and that district thus far in the campaign, and I think he's got to be probably, you know, getting down on his knees and praying to his god, that, you know, thanking his god that Shadegg went ahead and bowed out of the race.

Ted Simons:
As far as Waring and Weiers, last year of their term so they don't need to resign.

Jim Small:
State law requires if not in the last year of their term to give up their seat if they are going to run for another elected office. Weiers and Waring elected in 2006, this is the final year of their term.

Ted Simons:
Buzz that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon might be interested. Sounds like he is not.

Jim Smalls:
Yeah, we heard that today, and he actually held a press conference and came out and said I'm not interested in running for it, but what I am interested in doing is getting behind whichever candidate, democrat, republican who is going to support the needs of the city of Phoenix and advocate for the nation's fifth largest city in Washington D.C.

Ted Simons:
Is this uphill for the democrats, or is the fact that Shadegg is out of the way a good chance that democrats have?

Jim Smalls:
Congressman Shadegg had served since 1994, part of the incoming contract of America group when republicans took control of congress. Democrats, they still have an uphill climb. The republican voter registration advantage is very steep. I think they're banking on the swell of people dissatisfied with republican politics from 2006 carrying over to 2008.

Ted Simons:
Revenue shortfall getting worse, is the pace increasing at all in these negotiations?

Jim Smalls:
Not really. As far as I know they haven't met since last Monday. Negotiations were put off last week. Not all negotiators were present. They came back yesterday, didn't have any meetings. As far as I know they didn't have any meetings scheduled for today. They're trying to work something out to get house and senate republicans and democrats back together.

Ted Simons:
House and senate democrats and republicans back together or leadership back together. Is there still grumbling that the rank and file do not know what is going on.

Jim Smalls:
There has been grumbling among the back bench republicans and democrats that say, look, you know, we're elected, too. We're a part of the 60 or the 30 and we deserve to have our say in what's going on here, and part of that frustration what you're seeing is in the house and senate, the appropriations chair committees are upset with the slow pace of negotiations. They are trying to push forward with their own budgets. Try to vote them out. Say negotiators, get your act together. Let's move this process along. We're four months into it and we haven't really done anything.

Ted Simons:
Is that going to work? Is that viable at all?

Jim Smalls:
I think time will tell. I talked to Representative Russell Pearce who chairs the house appropriations committee and he hopes to hear either a budget bill tomorrow or call a special meeting for Thursday and put the bill through that way. Whether or not he has the votes or whether it will amount to anything remains to be seen.

Ted Simons:
How much is the absence of the senate president in some of these negotiations factoring into the frustration down there?

Jim Smalls:
It depends who you talk to. Senate president bee told us that he left at a time when they had a natural break in negotiations, they could go back and do small group meetings with republicans and democrats and bounce the ideas off of them that they had been talking about during the negotiations and hopefully come back and get agreements going. But if you talk to some of the other people involved in negotiations, they have privately said, you know, look, maybe we are at a point where you could take a break. If he was here, he wouldn't have taken a break. We would have kept meeting.

Ted Simons:
Interesting. Employer sanctions, I know a lot of bills coming through and a lot of folks with ideas on how to tinker with the law as it makes its way through the appeals process. Where do we stand on this?

Jim Smalls:
Legislative speaking, a number of bills have been filed. None assigned yet. It seems likely most will be put in the House's Homeland Security and Property Rights Committee, Representative Ward Nichols, a strong -- of the tough sanctions that Representative Russell Pearce endorses. It is unlikely that any of the measures that are supported by the business community that would, you know, really take the penalties down are even going to get a hearing, much less get passed.

Ted Simons:
I can't let you go without information, latest on leadership apparently wanting another shot at a ban on gay marriage. Where is this coming from? Why is this being talked about? How far do you think it is going to go?

Jim Smalls:
I would imagine they will be able to get the votes to put this on the ballot. It has only been two years since they rejected a similar proposal that was more wide reaching, but I don't know that your standard voter, run of the mill voter is going to see the difference between the last one and this one. A lot of people think that this might just be a ploy to try to get some of the more conservative voters out to the polls in Arizona and help stem the tide of republicans losing their seats.

Ted Simons:
Critics saying this is divisive, unnecessary, at the capitol, among lawmakers when something like this pops up, does this get the visions going stronger?

Jim Smalls:
It does. A number of lawmakers, democrats mostly all will say this is a divisive issue. We shouldn't be tackling these kinds of things. We should leave people's personal lives alone. In republican circles people say the same thing, most won't say it publicly, they grumble quietly to themselves or the whispers that you hear. The reality is that it is a big issue for a lot of republican voters. And when it gets on the ballot, it does draw people to the polls. And, you know, for the most part they roll with the punches, I think.

Ted Simons:
Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Jim Smalls:
Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons:
We are coming up on the height of flu season. Here in Arizona flu activity is at a widespread level. That is the highest designation named by the Centers for Disease Control. Here is a look at that, plus how to get more information about influenza.

Merry Lucero:
The centers for disease control classified flu activity into five levels. No activity, sporadic, local, regional, widespread. THE CDC issues a widespread classification when there is an increase in flu and flu-like illnesses and recent laboratory confirmed flu in almost half of the state's regions. There have been almost 1500 laboratory confirmed cases reported for the 2007-2008 flu season in Arizona. Cases have been reported in 13 of 15 counties, most in Maricopa County with 680. Coconino has had 263, Pima 210, Graham, 172. Those numbers likely represent a fraction of the actual number of cases. Arizona's flu season can last as late as May. It is not too late to get a flu shot. A list of providers is available at Community Information and Referral. You can call 602-263-8856 or go to cir.org. For more information about influenza, go to azdhs.gov/flu.

Ted Simons:
Joining me to talk more about influenza in Arizona is Will Humble, assistant director of public health preparedness for Arizona department of health services.

Will Humble:
It means it is as bad as it gets. We saw 50\% increase in flu cases between last week and this week. It is going gang busters. And by the way, it was bad enough last week. It's really starting to ramp up. It is time for folks to start paying attention to those things their grandmother taught them about washing their hands and coughing into their sleeve.

Ted Simons:
Are there parts of the state getting hit harder than other areas?

Will Humble:
Three or four weeks ago primarily in the urban centers, Phoenix and Tucson. What we have seen happen over the last couple of weeks it spread statewide. It is in all corners of the state, up, down, sideways, bad everywhere across the state, hence, the widespread label.

Ted Simons:
Is that typical to start in urban areas and spread outward?

Will Humble:
It usually is. Sometimes we see it spread more quickly, it took a couple of weeks to get out of the urban centers, probably a little longer than normal. There is no where to hide anymore.

Ted Simons:
This may be a dumb question, but I will ask it anyway. Does the weather play a factor in these flu cycles?

Will Humble:
Yeah.

Ted Simons:
It would seem like it would, but it is a virus, so not necessarily.

Will Humble: In general, you could say yes, it does. Because we see it always in the winter months. But it is not so sensitive to say, well, you know, the flu is bad when it is 60, but not when it is 74. It is not like that. The flu is bad when it is in the lower temperature ranges and as the season progresses, it gets a little better. We've seen flu cases in the outbreaks continue some of the years until April or May, and you know how hot it is then. So, it takes a while to taper off, but, yeah, I mean, it's hard to spread a virus when it is 113.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask regarding the time of this particular outbreak and this particular widespread designation, is it any different than we usually see? Is this about the time of year you see it?

Will Humble:
If you look at a ten-year trend, this is typical to see a peak in mid February, early March. It is pretty normal to see it in February. Last year we saw a peak right around the holidays, right before New Year's. Last year we would say an earlier than normal year. This year is typical.

Ted Simons:
It you have an earlier than normal year, do you occasionally get twin peaks?

Will Humble:
No, we were just talking about this. In the last ten years, I haven't seen that kind of thing in Arizona. You tend to see a peak, and it drops off and it gets better. We haven't peaked yet. 50\% increase between last week and this week. That's pretty bad.

Ted Simons:
How does that compare with other states?

Will Humble:
We are in the boat with most of the rest of the country. If you look across the C.D.C. map, you can see where the flu is bad and it's bad all across the country. There is a handful of pockets here and there that really don't have widespread flu, but we've got it just like everybody else.

Ted Simons:
Is there anything unusual about this particular strain of flu?

Will Humble:
Not necessarily. Towards the -- about a month or so ago, we started to see an increase in a strain of the flu that isn't in the vaccine. It is not a big component of the epidemic that we're seeing right now in Arizona, but it is out there. So, there is -- there is a strain that is circulating out there that is not covered by the vaccine. And that may be an indication that we will have a worse than normal flu season.

Ted Simons:
Again, the reason I asked the question is I want to make sure that whatever this flu is can be addressed by the vaccine everyone got back in October, September, November.

Will Humble:
The vast majority of the strains we see circulating in Arizona are covered by the vaccine.

Ted Simons:
Right now is it too late to get a vaccine?

Will Humble:
It is never too late to get a vaccine. You saw the web site cir.org, you can query that web site. By zip code you can find out where the flu clinics are out there. It takes ten days, two weeks for the antibodies to ramp up and protect yourself. Guess what? We will still see flu cases in March. It is a good time to go out there right now.

Ted Simons:
There is the phone number and the web site. We had it on the screen there for folks to get the flu shot. Not too late. How do you convince people to get a flu shot, especially when I never get the flu, why should I bother with this?

Will Humble:
It only takes once. People you describe are the folks that have to learn the hard way. Influenza is not like a rhino virus or regular cold virus. It hits you hard. You have a 101, sometimes 102, or even more fever. Chills, chills, achie-ness, difficulty breathing, sometimes progresses to pneumonia. Influenza is nothing, you know, it is nothing to ignore. It is a serious illness. So, you know, some people have to learn the hard way.

Ted Simons:
And the flu vaccines do work.

Will Humble:
Yes, they do.

Ted Simons:
Will, good to see you.

Ted Simons:
There are an estimated 130,000 children in Arizona who qualify for kids care but are not enrolled. A statewide enrollment event called "love your kids" is coming up this Thursday, Valentine's Day, to enroll eligible children in kids care. We'll talk more about the event in a moment. First, Merry Lucero examines the link between health care and learning at one valley school district.

Merry Lucero:
This student and her mother are heading to a health center at a school in the elementary school district. A physician's assistant examines the student and prescribes medicine if needed. It is through a partnership with Phoenix Baptist hospital. This free program is not only valuable to the student's health but necessary for learning.

Jim Rice:
There are students that are ill and the physician's assistant will look at them provide them with a prescription, and they're on their way to, you know, getting ready to school by getting well.

Merry Lucero:
Alhambra Elementary School is in central Phoenix.

Jim Rice:
We have 15 schools. Right at 15,000 children attending our schools. Kindergarten through 8th grade school. 78\% of our children come from Latino families, 10\% Anglo, 7\% African American, two percent Asian families and another two percent Native American families. 89\% of our children are on free and reduced lunches. That gives you a little bit about our socioeconomic background.

Merry Lucero:
Dr. Rice believes there are a large number of children in the district who are eligible for kids care, but not enrolled, and there are several reasons for that.

Jim Rice:
First re qualification process that they have to go through every six months. Parents sometimes don't know that. Or parents don't have the transportation to get them to the department of economic security to go through that qualifying process. Some parents are not aware that the kids care is available to them. And then that certainly -- and we work with D.E.S. in providing information and sending information out to parents, but still there is a communication piece that might be missed.

Merry Lucero:
And when these students are ill and don't get health care they missed more school and have a harder time learning and catching up.

Jim Rice:
We're instructing children to learn English. We're trying to give children that good foundation to be good readers, to be good writers, to do mathematics, and then when you have a child whose basic needs are not being met because they do not have the resources to handle that cold or asthma or lice from time to time that children get and have to be removed from school, it makes it difficult to do the content area to prepare children in the areas of reading, math, writing when they're having health issues.

Nurse:
Okay. You can have a seat there.

Merry Lucero:
Health care, like hygiene or clean clothing, is a basic need, says Rice. One he encourages parents to provide their children by enrolling in kids care if they are eligible.

Jim Rice:
In registering and signing your children up, it really is a very easy process. And keeping track of the six months, too, when that is going to require a reevaluation and getting that appointment also set up so that the parents can make sure that their children continue to be eligible for health services.

Ted Simons:
Here to talk more about the "Love Your Kids" event is Dana Naimark, President and C.E.O. of the Children's Action Alliance. Dana, thanks for joining us. Good to see you.

Dana Naimark: Thanks.

Ted Simons: What is Love Your Kids day?

Dana Naimark: It is a statewide enrollment event. Helps families enroll their families in kids care. It is happening all across the state, 100 enrollment sites and community partners involved to help students enroll.

Ted Simons:
Is it rural and urban?

Dan Naimark:
Rural and urban, many communities, Holbrook, Chandler, Phoenix, Tempe, at schools, hospitals, health clinics, other community food banks, places like that in the community.

Ted Simons:
How do you raise awareness on something like a program like kids care to folks who are eligible but might be intimidated, might be confused, might be looking at the requirements and go I give up, I can't figure this out.

Dana Naimark:
That is what this is about. It takes a public private partnership. Many private organizations are stepping up to the plate to help out. Getting the word out over and over again, on radio, TV, at community centers where people go every week, month, with their kids, especially at schools, and that's something new, thanks to legislation last year, thanks to the governor and our legislature, schools can now be full partners in outreach for kids care.

Ted Simons:
We talk about kids care and the fact that this event is enrolling kids into kids care, let's talk about kids care and what it is.

Dana Naimark:
Kids care is low cost health insurance for children, uninsured children younger than 19 in Arizona, it includes checkups, dental, vision, all of the things we need to keep kids healthy that we heard Jim talk about, why it is so important for kids at school to be healthy and have access to health care.

Ted Simons:
How much does kids care cost?

Dana Naimark:
It costs up to $35 per month, and that is for a family that has more than one child enrolled. It could be lower than that. But $35 a month would be the highest cost to the parent.

Ted Simons:
Along with that information, what does a qualifying family need to know about kids care and back a little to the earlier question, how best to get that information to them?

Dana Naimark:
Right. What they need to know is that they might qualify, even if they've never been getting state benefits of any kind before, even if they are working full-time, they might qualify. And they should take a look at the web site and see what the basic criteria are, but really they should call and check it out because a lot of families who think it is not for them, they're missing out on something that could be benefiting their children.

Ted Simons:
Can you give us an overview, basics of the requirements and what people might need to know to get a head start?

Dana Naimark:
Sure. There are income requirements and so it depends on your family size, but if you are in a family of four earning up to 40,000 you might qualify, and if you have a larger family, you could be earning more than that, and it is for children 19 years old and younger.

Ted Simons:
This event, does it also give an opportunity for parents to look into health care as well or is this basically focused on kids?

Dana Naimark:
It's focused on kids, but we are fortunate in Arizona that parents are eligible as well, and we do have about 13,000 parents right now who get their coverage through kids care, and we're working very hard to remind our state legislators of how important that coverage is as well.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about that. How concerned are you in these troubling times as far as the budget goes that kids care is going to wind up on the curb?

Dana Naimark:
Kids care has shown up on possible budget cuts. There are only two legislators that have plans -- we're hoping it stays that way, that they are the only folks that are interested in cutting kids care. It is a mistake to move backward in health care coverage for kids at a time when states around the country and voters are very interested in moving forward for children.

Ted Simons:
And in this state, with the budget concerns, I guess you could look at something like this event, this love your kids day, what if it works really well, can the state afford a whole bunch of new kids in kids care?

Dana Naimark:
The good thing is it is extremely cost effective. Health care coverage for children saves us money in the long run, children who are uninsured end up having higher health care costs and going to the emergency room and shifting health care costs to all of the rest of us. Also, we get three federal dollars for every state dollar we put into kids care. We're fortunate that our legislature did build in growth in kids care this year. They were thinking about enrollment events and awareness just like this one. Most of our legislators have the goal of enrolling more children and we share that goal.

Ted Simons:
Why hasn't this information -- the event is made to get the information out. Why hasn't it gotten out before now?

Dana Naimark:
It has been a slow movement to get the information out, partly because when kids care was created, legislators did not want to get the word out. That had a chilling effect for quite a long time. I think we've turned the corner. As I said, great legislative support for getting the word out about kids care. We actually have state money in outreach for the first time ever. So, we really have a shared goal of increasing our rate of children who have health insurance.

Ted Simons:
Once again, to get more information about the event and kids care

Dana Naimark:
Loveyourkidsaz.org.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us.

Ted Simons:
Coming up tomorrow on "Horizon," Senate President Tim Bee and House Speaker Jim Weiers talk about legislative issues from the republican leadership perspective. That's tomorrow on "Horizon." Please visit our web site at azPBS.org/Horizon for video and transcripts of Horizon. That's it for now. Thanks for joining us. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

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