Governor yanks health coverage from over 1,200 Alaskan kids
Veto leaves many unanswered questions, uncovered children
ANCHORAGE - Today, Alaskans responded with shock, disappointment and confusion after Governor Sean Parnell announced his veto of increased coverage for needy Alaskans through Denali Kid Care, costing almost 1,300 Alaskan kids and over 200 pregnant women health coverage this year.
The Governor claimed his recent enlightenment that Denali Kid Care could cover abortion as his justification, yet he could not answer questions about how much money was spent on abortion or whether he would seek to further cut the program in the future.
"It's cutting off your nose to spite your face," said Representative Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). "It's unbelievable that he would take coverage from so many Alaskan children just to make a point about a very small part of what Denali Kid Care does."
"We've been fighting for years to get coverage for needy children in Alaska that is on par with other states," said Representative Lindsey Holmes (D-Anchorage). "I'm shocked that the governor would sacrifice the health and well being of Alaskan children for political ideology."
"We are very disappointed in the veto. There are over five thousand grandparents caring for eight thousand grandkids in Alaska. For many of them, the only insurance available to cover those kids is Denali Kid Care," said Patrick Luby, advocacy director for the AARP Alaska.
"When my dad was away in the military, our military coverage was not adequate. Denali Kid Care was the only way I could get the services I needed," said Amber Sawyer, a student at University of Alaska Anchorage. "I know for a fact there are other military families who could use this."
"This veto will impact many single parents barely over the income requirements now," said Christa Womack, family partnership coordinator for the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Head Start program. "The more connected children are to their health care providers, the more access they have to other valuable programs."
"Given the governor's focus on domestic violence and prevention, we're in a state of shock," said Joy Lyon, executive director of the Association for the Education of Young Children in Southeast Alaska. "Denali Kid Care is a basic building block to stabilizing families and connecting them to their medical providers who play an important role in the overall health of a family, including preventing domestic violence."
The Governor's decision will also hurt Alaska financially. Uninsured children with medical need are four times more likely to use much costlier emergency rooms to meet non-emergency needs, passing those costs on to Alaskans. The veto also leaves up to $2 million of federal matching money inaccessible.
"Alaskans will bear real costs from this decision, not only will hundreds of kids and pregnant women have to go without medical care, but we're also passing the costs of unnecessary emergency room visits on to everyone else," said Representative Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage).
Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), who carried SB 13 on the House Floor and has sponsored legislation to improve Alaska's 3rd worst in the nation children's health care ranking, noted, "This bill was about treating children who need to go to the hospital. It was about promoting well-baby check-ups. Over 1,000 children will lose out because of this veto. Inserting a debate about a Supreme Court ruling on abortion was the wrong move."
Fifty-two of sixty legislators voted to increase Denali Kid Care coverage to cover Alaskan children living in households earning 200% of the federal poverty level. The veto keeps Alaska at 175%, one of only five states that do not cover children in families earning at least 200% of the poverty level. Ten states cover children in families with income at 300% of the federal poverty level.
House Democratic Caucus