Obama Reelected to Second Term—What’s the Outlook for Babies?
Long after East Coast babies, at least, were tucked in their cribs last night, Barack Obama was declared the winner of the 2012 Presidential race, securing a second term.
With this hard-fought contest finally over, thoughts (for some of us) naturally turn to the question: What’s in it for babies? Children’s issues were not exactly front and center in this year’s race. Yet, President Obama has a strong track record on policies that support the youngest children. So here is a quick reading of the tea leaves about what lies ahead—and thoughts about what we need to do as advocates:
Health Insurance for All
Infants and toddlers, who make the trek to their pediatrician’s office more than any other age group, already are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through provisions related to first dollar coverage (i.e., no co-payment) for preventive care and the law’s prohibition against turning away those seeking insurance for preexisting conditions.
Full implementation of ACA can proceed as planned, with the State Exchanges and premium support coming on-line in 2014. Hopefully, the 8.2% of young children with no health insurance will start shrinking toward 0.
Ensure that state benchmark plans for their health insurance exchanges provide adequate services for infants and toddlers.
Early Care and Education
The President showed his support for early childhood education early in his first term by making substantial investments through the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA virtually doubled the size of Early Head Start, an expansion cemented by subsequent funding decisions, and gave a big, though temporary, boost to child care. He established the Early Learning Challenge as part of Race to the Top, enabling selected states to create quality improvement frameworks and spur coordination across settings and programs.
The President’s plan put forth during the campaign stressed investment in education as a “must” in building an economically strong nation, even while looking to reduce deficits. Moreover, it cited the expansion of Head Start/Early Head Start as a major achievement in his first term. The President’s support for early childhood is likely to remain firm. What remains unclear is how Congress and the White House may proceed on reauthorization of both CCDBG and Head Start.
Ensure that early childhood is seen as an integral part of investing in education—and that supporting infant-toddler development is seen as the beginning of the path to school readiness.
Deficit Reduction and Tax Reform
While talk in the campaign mostly centered on jobs and the economy, reaching agreement on looming budget issues will be the most pressing item on the immediate Washington agenda. The upcoming fiscal showdown is a puzzle of interlocking pieces—averting the sequester (across-the-board-cuts) currently locked in for January, reaching broad agreement on how to reign in budget deficits through some combination of revenue increases and funding cuts, the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and calls for tax reform, and another necessary increase in the debt ceiling. Children in low-income families have a great deal on the line: extending the expanded refundable tax credits that were another ARRA benefit, possible further cuts in domestic discretionary programs, and reforms in mandatory programs such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) all could be part of any grand bargain on the deficit.
The President has indicated he wants to deal with the deficit issue and averting the so-called “fiscal cliff” of sequester and expiration of the tax cuts during the Lame Duck session after the election. The outcome of deficit reduction talks—which almost certainly will not get to the level of individual programs for children—is the biggest challenge facing young children and their families.
Infant-toddler advocates must Be a Big Voice for Little Kids® and work to ensure that programs for children and families who are financially disadvantaged—programs that often provide the scaffolding that supports infant-toddler development—are protected and a balanced approach that includes revenue increases is adopted.
Stay tuned to the Baby Policy Blog for more in-depth analysis of the election results and upcoming policy decisions where your voice will be needed. Meanwhile, as you think about how to advocate for infants and toddlers, get the Baby Facts about the youngest children in the United States.
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Senator Murray receives the award for making babies and young children a national priority.