Why is it such a struggle to get health insurance?
Imagine your young daughter having an asthma attack…struggling to breathe…and you’re frantic with worry about her and if there are any puffs left in her inhaler. Just reading this probably has affected your own breathing.
For parents who can’t afford health insurance, renewals on prescriptions are simply not an option. There’s always the emergency room but that is scary for you and your child. But with no insurance that’s the surest way to get the medicine your child needs. It’s also the most expensive way for that child to get care and the government and taxpayers end up footing that exorbitant bill.
We should all be able to breathe easier and, if every child were insured, that would be possible. Sadly, the share of uninsured children took its largest annual jump in more than a decade. There are now approximately 726,000 more American children without health insurance than in 2016. Pennsylvania is home to 128,000 of them. Those children get no checkups, treatments, or prescriptions, but they do still get sick.
What’s striking is that 60% of these kids nationally are eligible for public coverage. Why is it such a struggle to get health insurance?
First, enrolling in insurance programs is just too complicated. The Affordable Care Act created a “marketplace” but even the most highly educated consumer has a hard time making the best choice for themselves and their family. For low-wage workers and the unemployed, the application process for Medicaid is daunting to say the least.
PCCY helps those families find no-cost or affordable health coverage through our Child Health Watch Helpline. We demystify the options, process the application, and follow-up to confirm all is well. Every child we get covered is met with a deep sigh of relief from their parents.
Second, thousands of children can’t be insured in Pennsylvania because they are living here without legal citizen documents. Immigration policy aside, this pandemic has taught us that that the health of a community is only as strong as the health of the individuals in it.
Dr. Karen Wang, a pediatrician at the Berks Community Health Center and school physician for the Reading School District, noted “As a pediatrician, I’m always hoping that lawmakers will see the connection between the fact that kids get sick, and if they are undocumented they are less likely to get care, including testing. With COVID-19, the stakes are higher, lawmakers must confront the fact that undocumented children not having access to care puts their families and us all at risk.”
Today is World’s Children’s Day. The U.S. is the only country not to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among the covenants of that inspired call to action is each country to accept that health coverage is a right that must be actualized for each child.
Until that’s a reality, none of us can breathe easy.