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Want Healthy Kids? Cover Their Parents

Photo: Courtesy of Aditya Romansa

The evidence is overwhelming that children covered by Medicaid — the major source of health insurance for low-income children — are more likely to stay in school, finish college, earn higher incomes, pay more taxes as adults and use fewer government subsidies than their uninsured peers. Simply put, making health insurance available to children is a wise public investment. 

An excellent way to improve children’s health is to make health insurance available to their parents. Kids are more likely to be insured and to get regular check-ups when their parents are insured.1

Unfortunately, millions of parents are uninsured because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to purchase private health insurance. They fall into “the coverage gap.” The good news is that states can expand affordable coverage to these parents and other adults. But while most states have expanded, 17 have yet to take advantage of this option. ​​​​​​​

In December 2012, Nevada became the first state with a Republican governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The Children’s Advocacy Alliance and its partners helped persuade Governor Sandoval and Nevada legislators that this would improve children’s health by providing coverage for many parents for the first time. Post-expansion, Nevada achieved the largest decrease in the rate of uninsured children of any state, dropping from 14.9 percent in 2013 to 6.8 percent in 2016. 

Results like this are why child advocates are working to expand Medicaid for adults — especially parents. In North Carolina, where the infant mortality rate was a shocking 7.2 per 1,000 births in 2016 (22 percent higher than the national average), advocates are pushing to secure health coverage for low-income women. Healthy moms are more likely to have healthy babies who survive to their first birthdays.

In Idaho, Utah and Nebraska, child advocates are urging voters to support ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, while in Maine, child advocates helped win the ballot initiative and are now pushing the governor to comply with the results.

As we seek to improve children’s health, let’s remember that they need healthy families supporting them. 

Deborah Stein, Network Director, Partnership for America’s Children, Michelle Hughes, Executive Director, NC Child and Denise Tanata, Executive Director, Children’s Advocacy Alliance, [email protected]

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