Coverage Cutback

Congress stops funding insurance, causes health risks for children

Lindsey Parker , reporter

art by Mikaela Alvarez
Will this be your last
checkup with us?

Nearly 90% of Americans are covered with health insurance, and 22.1 million of those people are covered with the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Following Trump’s inauguration, the President is now pushing to repeal the act that provides coverage for a large portion of the population in the United States. Not only would this cause adults to lose their coverage, but many children would be uninsured as well, leading to a spike in health issues and due to the inability to visit a healthcare provider, would leave children ill and without access to proper care.

Firstly, political leaders are also pushing to eradicate funding of Medicaid by 26 percent, which would leave many low-income families without coverage. 35 million children are currently covered with Medicaid, and cutting such a crucial amount of their insurance would devastate an incredibly large number of people. Medicaid has more benefits than disadvantages and offers coverage at low prices. Children with Medicaid tend to do better in school and have higher graduation rates compared to uninsured children, which leads to higher paying jobs. Therefore, cutting Medicaid would hurt children now and in the future. Lastly, families who are covered through Medicaid are less likely to experience financial hardships, such as increased debt due to an unexpected medical crisis.

Next, families will lose the comfort they have with the coverage of Obamacare. Vanessa Ramirez, a mother of two children from Arizona, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was 23, but now more than a decade later, she and her children are healthy. After dealing with her condition at such a young age, Ramirez doesn’t take healthcare for granted. The ACA made her feel secure that her and her children would be covered. She bought insurance regardless of her preexisting condition, and her children were covered as well. Ramirez has coverage via the exchange, and her kids are covered through the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which is for working families who don’t quite qualify for Medicaid. Arizona’s version is called KidsCare.

State lawmakers froze KidsCare enrollment back in 2010; Arizona was the only state without an active program. But last year Obamacare helped revive the program by covering the entire cost in Arizona and a handful of other states, at least through 2017. Arizona now has more children enrolled in the federal marketplace than almost any other state. If you add in Medicaid and KidsCare, roughly 130,000 kids or more could be at risk of losing their health care coverage if Congress doesn’t come up with a replacement that is similar in scope.

However, Congressional leaders don’t understand the sensitivity of the situation. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Congress could repeal the law sometime in February or March, and advocates for the uninsured and those who study healthcare are very concerned. If a partial repeal is modeled on the past reconciliation bills Republicans have passed, the Medicaid expansion would likely be struck down. Additionally, tax credits and “cost-sharing assistance” for Americans who bought subsidized individual coverage using public exchanges would probably dissolve. Also, children who would keep their insurance would be affected. As previously reported, “Without the ACA, insurance companies can reinstate co-pays and deductibles on preventive services for children, which in turn could cause families to scale back on the medical care they receive.”

According to a report from the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, the number of uninsured children would be 4.4 million greater, 133% higher, under partial repeal. The repeal could hurt some groups more than others. For example, of those 4.4 million children who would lose coverage, 88% would be in families with working parents. In 2015, without publicly funding family planning, the rate of unintended pregnancy and unplanned birth would have been 68% higher. If women have reliable coverage, which can be provided by ACA, unwanted pregnancies could be reduced which, in turn, would cut down on abortion overall.

Congressional leaders are being encouraged to recognize, maintain, and strengthen the ACA’s improvements to the health of women and children. Politics has no place in the exam room and politics should have no place in deciding whether to roll back or build upon the gains that have been made for women and children to date.

Furthermore, the ACA being repealed can only result in consequences that families of the working class will have to suffer through. Congressional and Legislative leaders have no idea what will come of the de-funding of health insurance that covers families. Child healthcare advocates are speaking out, including the American Academy of Pediatrics that recently tweeted, “Today governors are meeting to discuss Medicaid and CHIP. Our message is simple: #KeepKidsCovered.” Students and their parents can use the hashtag through social media and calls to representatives to make their voice heard, while teachers can briefly cover the economic and political implications for getting rid of insurance funding