Health Care for Every Child

Posted October 16, 2017, By Patrick McCarthy

All children in the United States should have access to quality health care. Research indisputably shows children’s health is the foundation of their physical, intellectual and emotional development. Healthy kids are more likely to attend school, be ready to learn and graduate from high school and college, while poor health in childhood can have lifelong consequences.

Having access to health care means raising healthier kids. Children who can do better in school because they have the glasses they need. Children who receive appropriate treatments because of early screenings and wellness checkups. Children whose families don’t face financial ruin if they have a serious or chronic illness that requires regular medical care.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has applauded efforts over recent decades to expand health coverage to more children and families. Through advancements in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, the numbers are trending in the right direction. In June, our 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book reported that never in our nation’s history have so many children had health coverage: 95%.

Although the political parties seldom have been aligned at the same time, policymakers on both sides of the aisle have worked together over the past decades to bring us to this pinnacle.

Some of the progress:

  • In 2015, 3.5 million kids lacked health insurance. While that number is still too high, it represents a 38% improvement from 2010, or 2.4 million more children with coverage.
  • In 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the percentage of children without health insurance was 5% or less.
  • California, home to one in eight children in the United States, experienced an almost 70% drop in the percentage of uninsured children between 2010 and 2015.
  • An estimated 2.8 million children under age 18 gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act and other policy changes implemented from 2010 to 2015, according to the Urban Institute.

Clearly, the investments made in health care in recent years and decades have led to a good start in life for more children.

But these kids won’t have the bright future we imagine if their parents aren’t healthy enough to shepherd them to adulthood or if they fall into financial instability due to medical expenses. Hardworking families have the most to gain if we pursue a sensible approach to health care policy that protects children and their parents. Most kids living in higher-income households and those whose parents have access to health insurance through their employer will be fine. But far too many hardworking families — families who went through so much during the Great Recession — continue to live in fear of a debilitating and financially devastating illness. They need leaders to embrace policies that provide coverage with affordable rates and deductibles while protecting people with preexisting conditions.

We strongly urge policymakers to resist any effort to reverse protections for children and families — for their sake and our country’s. America’s children — nearly 74 million lives that hold so much promise — are our next generation of parents, inventors, artists, soldiers and leaders, the very bedrock of our future. Bipartisan solutions should focus on improving policies that have been enormously successful in expanding coverage for children, bringing peace of mind to families and providing stability in the health-care sector. Congress can, and should, ensure we continue our forward momentum.

The Casey Foundation has tracked our country’s considerable progress in expanding coverage for health care for children and families. Clearly, we should not undo that progress, and we should continue to press for smart policy choices that build on it. We encourage policymakers to put aside partisan differences and come together on sustainable solutions to ensure all children and families have access to the care needed for healthy development.

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