Good health and access to quality affordable health care is important for everyone, but it’s even more important for kids. This is because our health during critical developmental years can have consequences that last into adulthood. When health or developmental issues aren’t identified early, they can become more challenging and costly to address. Regular health check-ups during childhood help ensure that children are immunized against common childhood diseases that can be debilitating or even deadly. A new study indicates that there may even be an impact on earnings in adulthood based on access to health care as a child.
In 2013, there were 25,379 uninsured children in Nebraska. Of those, 16,914 were low-income (below 200% of the federal poverty level) and likely eligible, yet unenrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). We need to do more to ensure that children are receiving access to health services they need and that our health systems are effectively meeting both the physical and behavioral health needs of kids. Here are some things on the horizon for children’s health in 2015:
- First and foremost, we need Congress to continue CHIP, which has successfully reduced the number of uninsured children. This program is currently slated to expire at the end of September this year without congressional action. An expiration of the CHIP program would be a major setback in ensuring that children have access to health insurance.
- States also need to continue innovating to reduce barriers to enrollment in CHIP. In Nebraska, we can adopt options to streamline our CHIP program. We also need to ensure that our online and phone based application system, AccessNebraska, isn’t creating artificial barriers to health care access for low-income kids.
- A bill (LB148) has been introduced in the state legislature to ensure that all former foster youth, even if they were in foster care in another state, have access to Medicaid up to age 26 in Nebraska. This is intended to ensure parity for former foster youth with a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows young people to stay on their parent’s insurance up to age 26.
- A bill (LB50) has also been introduced that would eliminate critical services in the Medicaid program like mental health and substance abuse treatment, dental services and prescription drugs. The removal of coverage for important preventive health services would be a step in the wrong direction and likely result in more visits to the ER for issues that could have been better addressed by a primary care physician.
- Nebraska’s ongoing failure to allow access to Medicaid for low-income adults and parents can also create challenges for kids. Children need healthy parents and we also know that parents whose kids have health insurance are also more likely to be insured themselves.
- Access to healthy and adequate food is also an important part of child health. We hope to see more Nebraska schools adopt innovative breakfast models and community eligibility in 2015 to ensure that fewer kids are starting their school day hungry.
These are just a few of the things on the radar for child health in 2015. We hope that you will continue following developments on these issues and help us ensure that our state and federal lawmakers will make healthy kids a priority in 2015.