Americans spend more on healthcare than residents of any other developed nation and the United States healthcare system remains one of the lowest performing health care systems in a high-GDP country. There are over 3.6 million uninsured children in the United States and 25 million uninsured adults. Although the number of uninsured has decreased in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, which the Trump administration has undermined by limiting outreach to get people covered and limiting funding of government programs that help people understand their coverage options. There remains a long way to go before Americans and, more specifically, American children have access to the services they need to stay healthy. And this is not merely an insurance issue. It’s a quality of care issue that has emerged as a result of economics.
In November, voters will have a chance to vote on a wide variety of ballot measures and for or against candidates with specific healthcare agendas. Affordable and accessible health care has ranked as the top issues for midterm voters across the country, regardless of party. People are paying attention. Parents should be paying even more attention. Beyond the obvious — that children with healthcare coverage have better access to doctors and can affordably get in front of one — better health care coverage also translates into better school performance and higher graduation rates, which could help the economy at large.
Here how voters can help make a push to improve children’s healthcare in the United States:
How Are Most Kids Insured?
Over 3.6 million kids in the United States don’t have health insurance. So how are most kids who are insured receiving coverage? It breaks down like this: According to 2016 estimates from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which follows health care issues across the country, about 38 million — or 49 percent — of American kids are covered through their parent’s employer’s insurance. Another six percent of kids are covered by “non-group” insurance, which is insurance that is purchased by individuals or families and kids are covered as dependents. Those are private options that aren’t sponsored by employers. Some 38 percent, or around 30 million of kids are covered by Medicaid (which includes CHIP); two percent by other public services like VA insurance and insurance from non-elderly Medicare enrollees, and around five percent of American kids are uninsured — roughly over 3.6 million.
What this means is that children’s access to healthcare is largely dependent on children’s parents retaining their jobs. The ongoing assault on Medicaid and the politicization of the CHIP program, which had previously received bipartisan support, by the Republican Party means that this quasi-hostage crisis could get even more problematic for parents concerned about their children’s access to doctors (read: parents).
What’s At Stake in the Midterms?
CHIP’s coverage ran out of funding in several states earlier this year after a government shutdown and the deadline for re-authorizing the pivotal program that insures over 9 million American kids passed. After a few months of uncertainty, the bill was refunded for another six years, meaning that CHIP will be secured until 2024. That’s good news.
CHIP is currently not at risk for either being de-funded or running out of money. Kids are insured. CHIP is a Medicaid program. Medicaid is the single largest healthcare provider in the United States and its expansion through the Affordable Care Act will help get even more kids and families covered over the next several years. Although costs of Medicaid might increase as enrollment should double over the next few years, one issue with Medicaid is that states are attempting to limit the amount of healthcare services that people can get while ensured with Medicaid. That’s a problem.
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