A catastrophe was temporarily averted last week as the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) failed, but we’re far from a clean bill of health. It’s reassuring to finally know we now have a united block of Congressional Representatives in southeastern PA standing against such efforts; thousands of families in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties were left to wonder for weeks who would stand for them. All southeastern PA members of Congress voted the right way; click here to thank your Congressman.
In part the delegation fell in line because they realized that Medicaid and CHIP make it possible for the suburban counties to boast about their higher than 90% coverage rate for children. The proposed repeal of the ACA would have put at risk the health care coverage of more than 135,000 children, or about a quarter of the kids who live in the Congressional Districts of Representatives Meehan, Costello and Fitzpatrick.
However, just as Speaker Ryan’s proposal for “access” to health care coverage wasn’t good enough for kids, insurance coverage is not a panacea. For instance, PCCY’s Left Out reportsfound that black and Hispanic children in each of the suburban counties lag behind their white peers when it comes to critical health indicators. For instance, infant mortality is on the rise in Delaware and Montgomery counties and black babies are dying at disturbingly higher rates than white babies in all four counties (there is no data available for Hispanic infants).
Although Medicaid and CHIP both cover the cost of lead screening, a horrifyingly low share of children are being screened for lead exposure across the counties. The Left Out series exposed less than 30% of suburban children are being tested for lead; and there’s no way to know that the children most likely to be exposed to lead are the ones being screened.
Should Congress revisit health care again, there is an important lesson in our research. When some children struggle, all children are impacted. Uninsured children who do not get their whooping cough vaccines are at greater risk of getting sick. These are the children who may inadvertently make their classmates sick. And higher absenteeism rates make it harder for schools to ensure every child excels. We also know that preschoolers with lead poisoning are more likely to have low scores on kindergarten readiness assessments. These are children who will need more of the teacher’s attention. It’s harsh to say that it’s at the expense of other children, but it’s the sad truth. That’s the evidence that strong public health services and public insurance programs make life better for every child.
A key to improving child health is to enact good public policies, of which CHIP and Medicaid are great examples. They’re not broken, there’s just more work to do.
“Just like the traditional taxi service revolted against ride-sharing, so too does the education establishment feel threatened by the rise of school choice.” -Ed Secretary Besty DeVos, who’s uber vision include taking parents on a ride.