Congress: Preserve Our Children’s Health

I beg our leaders in Washington: Do not go backward.
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Covenant House

Yesterday’s report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that 22 million fewer Americans will have health insurance by the end of the decade under the new Senate health plan is a bucket of cold water for those who hoped genuine reform might emerge from this Congress to address long-simmering problems with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and strengthen Americans’ access to health care. Notwithstanding the sheep’s clothing of “reform” that Senate drafters draped around their legislation, their bill is a hungry wolf, and it’s hunting insurance for those most in need.

The CBO estimates 15 million fewer Americans will have Medicaid coverage by the end of the decade under the current Senate health plan ― 1 million more than under the House bill passed earlier this year. The report finds the Senate health plan will increase deductibles, push many seniors and poor people out of health insurance markets altogether and – bright spot – reduce premiums by – back to the bad news – imposing coverage caps and eliminating benefits.

The bill does not fix health care in America. It culls the insured. Unless the problem is 22 million too many people have health insurance, these bills are not the answer.

The Medicaid expansion in the ACA has been a godsend to Covenant House children and youth and millions of other young people. Medicaid provides health care to more than a third of the nation’s children, pays for half of all births, and covers almost a fifth of our population. Its expansion under the ACA has helped insure unaccompanied, homeless young people, ages 18 to 21, in 31 states, including New Jersey, Nevada, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Alaska. Millions of children and youth are able to see a doctor by virtue of the Medicaid expansion that governors from both parties put in place over the past 6 years.

Take, for example, Chad, who became sick while living on the streets, without help from his family. He was covered by the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, and went on to get the care he needed and recover. Then he became a certified nursing assistant, and graduated from community college. Now he’s pursuing a degree as a Registered Nurse, hoping to spend his life helping others get well too. Chad’s experience is the story of so many of the young people I meet across America, youth who now have health insurance that is imperiled by the House and Senate bills. The photos appearing with this post are of some of those kids. Like so many Americans right now, they are worried about their futures.

The Medicaid rollback at the heart of both the House and Senate plans would jeopardize health insurance for millions of homeless youth and take it outright from 1.5 million minor children in 21 states, by reducing eligibility for coverage from 133 percent of the poverty line to 100 percent of the poverty line. It is impossible to believe that depriving these children of health insurance advances health reform in America in any way.

Tomorrow at 5 p.m., I will join thousands of Americans to form a human chain around the Capitol, asking our lawmakers to think about young people like Chad when making these crucial policy decisions.

For all of these kids, too quickly forgotten in the debate over the future of health care in America, I beg our leaders in Washington: Do not go backward.

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