The Finance Advisory Committee of the Arizona Legislature met recently. This group of financial experts from the universities and elsewhere meet quarterly with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) to advise them and the Legislature on the state’s economic outlook.
The October 2021 Finance Advisory Committee meeting was particularly rosy. During the pandemic, Arizona’s state government and residents received a total of $51 billion in aid from the federal government. These funds kept many Arizonans afloat during the pandemic and greatly helped our state’s financial position. The state coffers are brimming with tax revenue and gaming proceeds. Arizona corporations saw record profits. The Rainy Day Fund has $970 million in it. Ninety-four percent of the prepandemic jobs have returned.
During my five years in the Arizona House, I have been a crusader for increased funding and services for maternal and child health. Arizona is worst in the country for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Far too many Arizona children grow up with food insecurity, housing insecurity and financial insecurity, while the state government gives away billions each year in tax breaks.
With so much cash on hand, it’s time for the Arizona Legislature to invest in the health and wellbeing of children and families – instead of more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Arizonans.
According to Arizona’s 2020 Statewide Maternal and Child Health Needs Assessment Report, Arizona has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. Between 59 and 74% of African American, Latino and Native American children in Arizona live in low-income households. Although some of Arizona’s infant and maternal health outcomes are better than average, racial and ethnic disparities exist. Arizona’s overall infant mortality rate is 5.6 (per 1000 live births), but that rate jumps to 9.2 (per 1000 live births) for African Americans and 9.4 (per 1000 live births) for Native Americans. Similar racial and ethnic disparities exist when you look at low birthweight.
A few years ago the Arizona Legislature asked for a report on maternal death because too many healthy Moms were dying after childbirth. According to the same report, Arizona ranks 29th for maternal death with 27.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. The rate of maternal death is almost double for Native Americans at 53.7 per 100,000. African Americans have a maternal death rate of 43.3 per 100,000. Furthermore, Arizona’s report on maternal mortality found that 80 percent of these deaths were preventable and 20 percent were suicides. That is a travesty of justice. Throughout the pandemic, I was wondering how the single Moms and their children were hanging on. Now I know.
Arizona’s working families are at a crossroads. Many are struggling after losing pandemic benefits and are worried about loss of eviction protection in an uncertain world. Will the Arizona Legislature help them by easing some of their medical burden? Arizona’s Medicaid system, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) has flexibility options that it can opt into—especially now that the procedures have been streamlined and now that Arizona has plenty of money for matching funds. My guests today will talk about the state of maternal and child health in Arizona and steps that the Arizona Legislature can take in 2022 to improve the health and the lives of Arizonans, particularly our youngest residents.
My guests for this podcast are Zaida Dedolph, director of health policy for the Children’s Action Alliance, and Rep. Kelli Butler, who is ranking Democrat on the Arizona House Health Committee. They discuss Arizona’s need for expanded maternal and child healthcare and the state’s unique opportunities as we approach the next Legislative session.
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Podcast Topic Time Stamps
PPH Commentary 0:42
Interview with Zaida Dedolph 5:22
Increasing Access to Care for Arizona Children 6:17
Arizona’s Rate of Uninsured Children Is Almost Twice US Rate 7:12
AHCCCS and KidsCare 101 8:31
Arizona Doesn’t Have to Be Stingy with Healthcare 9:52
Arizona Does the “Bare Minimum” for New Moms and Babies 11:27
Arizona Maternal Mortality Report: 80% of Postpartum Deaths Are Preventable 12:36
Instead of Action to Save Lives | AZLeg Wants More Reports 13:54
Increased Access to Prenatal and Postpartum Care Would Save Lives and Money 15:45
Arizona Needs Medically Accurate Reproductive Health Education 18:43
There Are Generational Benefits to Increasing Health Coverage for More Families 20:17
Interview Rep. Kelli Butler 23:04
House Health Committee Is Meeting About Medicaid Expansion 24:06
Legislators Discuss Seven Ways to Improve Access to Care in Arizona 25:19
Butler Is Still Pushing for Expansion of KidsCare 26:16
Democrats Have Been Trying to Pass Dental Care for Pregnant People for Years 27:10
Expansion of Postpartum Care 28:35
Other Expansions Discussed by HHC 29:59
Prevention Saves Lives and Money 31:07
More on Arizona’s Maternal Mortality Report 32:48