Congress shouldn't jeopardize children

June 28, 2017 | The Advocate (Baton Rouge) |  Link to article

Health care is a basic ingredient for child well-being. To be healthy, children need regular checkups, immunizations, access to care when illness arises and ongoing monitoring to identify potential health problems early.

Since 1965, Medicaid has connected kids and families to the health coverage and care they need. Along with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid covers 53 percent of Louisiana’s young children under age 6, connecting them to vital health services that put them on a track to healthy development. Since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, the state’s rate of children without insurance dropped by over 44 percent. This has been a stunning achievement for our state. Louisiana’s children cannot go backward on this positive indicator.

Last week, Republicans in the U.S. Senate released their ACA repeal bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Bill, which would roll back the historic gains made in children’s health insurance under the ACA.

The core of the bill is deep and permanent cuts to the Medicaid program that would result in millions of people losing coverage. The bill limits federal funding to states, undermining the guarantee of comprehensive medical insurance that exists in Medicaid today. It also ends the Medicaid expansion, which — since last July — has allowed 431,000 Louisianans to gain access to health coverage.

A cap in federal funding poses a significant risk that Louisiana would not receive enough funding to keep pace with the rising cost of health care while simultaneously continuing to provide the same coverage, benefits, and payments to providers. As a result, state policymakers would be forced to decide how to make up the difference. This, in turn, would squeeze state funding for other services, including Louisiana’s high-quality pre-kindergarten programs that put young children on a successful path.

Many who gained health coverage under the expansion were low-income parents whose jobs do not offer insurance, who were unable to afford private insurance and who were not eligible for Medicaid before the ACA.

U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy should take these facts into serious consideration as they decide how to vote on this bill. Louisiana has made great progress in getting children and their parents the health care coverage and treatment they need. We hope Congress will focus on making health care more affordable and accessible, without jeopardizing coverage for children and families.

Melanie Bronfin, executive director, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, New Orleans

Hannah Matthews, director of child care and early education, Center for Law and Social Policy, Washington, D.C.

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