Today we celebrate the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, the historic health reform legislation which brought our children one step closer to universal health coverage.

While there are a wide array of opinions about health care reform and its impact, it is indisputable that our country’s children, especially low-income children and those with special health care needs, are better off today because of the Affordable Care Act. Included in the law is a long list of new child-focused policies that are already improving the lives of kids across America.

What are some of these new health policy milestones we’re celebrating for kids today?

  • Children born with a birth defect, children with asthma or diabetes, special-needs kids, among others, will be able to get the coverage they need because insurance companies can no longer discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions.
  • Insurance companies also will no longer place annual or lifetime caps on coverage, so if a child beats leukemia when they are 8 they will still be able to get the care they need if they face another serious illness later in life.
  • With one out of every four young people unable to find work due to the economic downturn, working and middle class parents now can have the peace of mind to know that their kids can stay on their insurance plan at minimal cost until they’re 26.
  • Never again will a child lose a permanent tooth because it costs less to pull it than to fix a cavity. Because of health reform, insurers are now required to provide vision care and dental care benefits for all children.

Beyond the new policies that were enacted with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the new law also builds upon the existing public programs that work well for kids, by improving Medicaid and extending the life of the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2015. While the families who rely on these programs don’t take them for granted, most Americans don’t know that Medicaid and CHIP are the source of coverage for more than one-third of all American children. And, more than 40 percent of all births in the U.S. are covered not by private insurance, but by Medicaid. The evidence is clear that having health coverage is essential for a child to grow up healthy and strong. These programs ensure that low-income families can get their kids the high quality, affordable, comprehensive care they need when they need it.

As policymakers across the nation work to implement health reform, we urge them to protect and strengthen the services that ensure our children grow up healthy. There is still much work ahead of us to be sure that the victories for kids are felt for every family member in America. Today, we urge every parent, teacher, and child advocate to join with those of us who fought so hard to move the dial on children’s healthcare by celebrating this momentous anniversary.