Health Care for Every Child

Posted October 17, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog healthcareforeverychild 2017

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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