Many low-income Nebraskans still fall into the health insurance coverage gap in which they earn too high of an income to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough to be able to afford private health insurance. Many of those that fall in the coverage gap are also parents to children under the age of 18. Fortunately, children are eligible for Medicaid through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at a higher income level, but providing the opportunity for more parents to obtain health insurance can have multiple benefits for kids as well.
It is well known that there is a correlation between parental and child insurance rates. If parents have health insurance coverage, their kids are much more likely to have coverage. One study found that nearly 75% of uninsured children have at least one uninsured parent. Furthermore, this same study found that states that expanding Medicaid for parents reduced uninsured rates among low-income children by over 40%. Though CHIP has been successful in reducing the number of uninsured children in Nebraska, there were still nearly 17,000 children in 2013 that remained uninsured despite being eligible for public health insurance.
In addition to getting health insurance coverage for their kids, parents with coverage are more likely to have better knowledge of the health care system and more likely to utilize available care for their children. Providing Medicaid coverage to uninsured children results in a 14% increase in well-child visits, while extending coverage to both children and parents increases well-child visits by 24%. Children with insured parents are much more likely to get regular, preventive care. Conversely, the likelihood of a well-child visit decreases by 3.5% among publicly insured children and 11.8% among privately insured children when they have an uninsured parent.
Parents are better able to meet the needs of their children when their own health needs are met. Parents who are uninsured are not likely to seek costly preventive care or treatment for physical or mental health conditions when needed. This lack of care can lead to more serious issues and complications and can inhibit a parent’s ability to properly care for their children.
Expanding health insurance to more low income parents would also expand access for low income children and increase their chances of obtaining adequate care. LB 472, also known as the Medicaid Redesign Act, would allow uninsured parents with incomes between about 60% and 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) access to health insurance and set up a task force to plan for the future of the Medicaid program. On Thursday, March 19 there will be a Close the Coverage Gap Lobby Day in support of LB 472. Let your elected representatives know where you stand and help over 54,000 Nebraskans secure health coverage by signing up to attend the lobby day!