Obamacare Offers a “Welcome Mat” to Get Eligible Kids into Coverage

Health

The Obamacare open enrollment season has begun and this is an exciting time for everyone across the country who has been uninsured and locked out of the insurance market. Finally, many of the 48.6 million Americans who are uninsured –whether due to a pre-existing condition, lack of job-based coverage, or just because the costs of insurance are too high — will have a meaningful pathway to high quality affordable coverage. While this is terrific news for all those who haven’t been able to get insurance, for children, especially low-income children, the biggest impact of the ACA is not new coverage options, but getting kids enrolled in coverage that has long been available through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

It’s an amazing story, really, because the ACA actually didn’t do much to expand coverage for children. Even before the ACA, in every state, every child is eligible for Medicaid if their families earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level (in some states the eligibility threshold for children over 6 is lower at 100 percent of poverty). And CHIP, built on top of Medicaid, made coverage available for children up to 400 percent of poverty (eligibility thresholds for CHIP vary by state). So long before Obamacare, Presidents and congressional leaders of both parties recognized how important it is that every child in America, especially those in low-income working families who do not have access to job-based insurance, could to get the care they need to ensure their healthy development.

So if the ACA didn’t expand coverage for children, you might ask how is it that the ACA will result in approximately 3.2 million children moving into coverage? The recently released Census data now shows there are there are currently there are 6.6 million children who are uninsured. Nearly two-thirds of these children are already eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but they are not enrolled in coverage. One of the most important aspects of the ACA for children is that outreach efforts and publicity around Obamacare and the new Exchange options will help reach millions of uninsured kids whose parents might not be aware of their eligibility or might not know where or how to apply. This so-called “welcome mat” effect will get the word out to parents and caregivers and schools and communities that coverage is immediately available for uninsured kids.

This is a big deal. Not only will Obamacare give parents and other uninsured family members and caregivers access to affordable coverage options, it will also help us get more eligible low-income children into coverage. If everyone does their part getting the word out to the uninsured in their communities, the estimates are that the ACA will reduce the national uninsurance rate for kids to 5 percent, a remarkable achievement because it moves our nation even closer to universal coverage for children. For the sake of our children and our nation’s future, we must do all we can to make sure we reach this goal.