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KidsCare supporters rally at Az Capitol against cuts

Those attending a birthday party held outside the state Legislature had one wish when the candles were blown out: Don’t cut KidsCare.

The program is a state and federal collaboration that provides health coverage to low-income children and their parents. Supporters marked the 10th anniversary of KidsCare in Arizona with a birthday celebration attended by a gaggle of squirming 4- and 5-year olds, lawmakers and the Phoenix Suns Gorilla.

The celebration came as lawmakers are mulling a proposal to eliminate the program as the state looks for ways to close a $1.6 billion deficit. Cutting the program for the rest of this fiscal year – through June 30 – would save the state $23 million. Next year, the savings would be $43 million.

The program covers about 63,000 children and 9,400 parents.

“Shorting kids’ health care is penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said Dr. Mike McQueen, a neonatologist. “Children’s health care is one of the examples of preventive health that we do in this country.”

Valarie Klein knows the value of that. Her son, Gaites, was complaining of sporadic migraine headaches. After visiting various specialists, an MRI revealed a tumor lodged between his optic nerve and pituitary gland.

“Because of KidsCare, Gaites was given the most advanced medical technology,” said Klein.

Rep. John Kavanagh, whose list of budget options sparked alarm among KidsCare advocates, said the program goes beyond the federal government’s original intent with Medicaid. KidsCare is available to people making up to 40 percent more than the federal poverty limit.

However, Kavanagh said there may be hope for the program if the federal stimulus plan addresses health-care programs.

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