Like all Americans, the Annie E. Casey Foundation believes every child deserves a bright future. And in our nearly 70 years of working to make that future a reality, we have learned that a child’s best chance for success in life — and for becoming an adult who fully contributes to our prosperity as a nation — is a healthy start from birth.
Having access to health care helps provide that healthy start — a fact that we hope our country’s leaders and decision makers bear in mind as they debate the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
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.
For nearly three decades, the Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book has provided an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in every state and across the nation as a whole, particularly in the areas of education, economic well-being, health and family and community life. Over the years, we’ve noted progress in some areas and setbacks in others.
But one area where we’ve celebrated progress is in children’s health — specifically, the steadily growing number of kids in this country who have health insurance. Over the past 20 years, the percentage of children without coverage dropped to 5%, from nearly 15%. Today, about 95% of American children have health insurance, a historic high. Since 2008 alone, the rate of uninsured children has fallen by 40% overall, improving across all racial and ethnic groups. The rate is as low as 2% in some states.
This progress didn’t happen of its own accord. It came about because of policies that have expanded access to health insurance for kids — and for their parents, who are more likely to enroll their children for coverage when they themselves have insurance. It came about because of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and expansions to Medicaid. Indeed, states that have expanded Medicaid in recent years experienced almost twice the drop in their percentage of uninsured children compared to states that chose not to expand the program.
With all of these great strides forward, now is the time to protect the progress made and continue the push to ensure every child has access to health care. We cannot afford to cede ground when it comes to the well-being of our kids, for their health forecasts ours as a nation.
Having access to health care means raising healthier children. Children who are able to do better in school because they have the glasses they need. Children who received 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.
And healthier children mean a healthier and more prosperous country. The foundation we lay for our youngest today determines our success tomorrow. Today’s young Americans — 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.
As an organization dedicated to improving the lives of America’s children, the Foundation recognizes the fundamental importance of health, and we and our partners remain committed to ensuring all of our country’s children have what they need to thrive, including guaranteed access to health care for them and their parents. We will continue supporting efforts that help move us toward that bright future for every child in America. And we call on our nation’s leaders and lawmakers to do the same by prioritizing the health of our nation’s kids as they make their decisions.