Barbara has championed numerous medical and health care issues, including anti-cancer drug discovery, skin cancer prevention, chiropractic and prenatal care, and HMO reform. See the details in her Legislative Record.


News Room


From the Arizona Republic, Jun. 28, 2006
By Laurie Roberts

There is a certain natural order to this world, things you have come to expect and rely on.

That the sun will rise every morning. That Republican and Democratic legislators will begin each January talking about a new spirit of cooperation, right up until the time they begin bashing each other's brains out. That they will end their marathon session in June, having done far more to us than for us.

So when people like Alan and Eileen Roth of Phoenix needed the Arizona Legislature to come to their rescue, I figured they were doomed.

Roth lost his health insurance in 2004 after his employer outsourced his job. His coverage ran out just as he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that eats bone. You can't cure it, but you can live with it with proper treatment.

Assuming you can afford such a luxury.

Roth qualified for AHCCCS, the state's health care plan for the poor, and after chemotherapy, radiation and a bone-marrow transplant, his cancer is in remission. But to stay alive, he needs $2,500 worth of treatments every month.

So you can imagine his reaction when AHCCCS kicked him to the curb. It seems Roth had the audacity to apply for Social Security disability, money he earned by working all his life. The $1,172 monthly check put him $102 over the poverty level. So AHCCCS dropped him.

And while the federal government deems him unable to work, Congress makes the disabled wait two years before they can qualify for Medicare.

Enter Sen. Barbara Leff. The Paradise Valley Republican heard about the Roths' plight and decided that if Congress couldn't live up to its obligations, the state, at least could try. Her bill was aimed at allowing people like the Roths to pay a premium and remain on AHCCCS for two years, until Medicare kicks in. It'll cost $8.5 million a year, but Leff figures it's worth it.

"Helping people who have played by the rules all their lives should be a top priority for this Legislature," she told me.

Happily, it was. Leff's bill passed last week with bipartisan support. Only a handful of right-wingers objected. Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the bill last Wednesday.

As of October, no longer will the disabled find themselves kicked off AHCCCS, given those grand Social Security checks.

The bill didn't come in time for Roth. He and his wife, Eileen, have gone through their savings and now qualify the old-fashioned way, by being poor.

But it could come in time to help Ken Nowak of Scottsdale. And it will help 1,300 other disabled Arizonans who at any given time are living in that no man's land between AHCCCS and Medicare.

Nowak was kicked off AHCCCS on May 1 after he started receiving disability pay. While his cancer is in remission, he needs surgery to remove the scar tissue that is closing his throat. But it'll have to wait until he can get on AHCCCS again.

Suzanne Hyde, a social worker for the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, says the new law will be a godsend to those who could die for lack of an ability to pay for treatment. "Just to know that when October comes I won't ever be seeing that lost and scared face again," she said, "that's going to be my biggest reward."

To someone who isn't sick, it may not be easy to understand. The rich take care of themselves, and the government takes care of the poor. As for the rest of us? One run of bad luck and we could be right there where Roth and Nowak stand.

Fortunately, the Legislature has decided to stand with them.