Policy Resource

Happy Birthday to the Affordable Care Act

Mar 18, 2012

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) turns two this week, and all over the country organizations and individuals are celebrating the law’s impacts on American families.

Each day this week, celebrations in states across the nation will focus on a different constituency affected by the ACA: Monday the 19th is seniors’ day; Tuesday will focus on women; Wednesday is for children; Thursday will look at small businesses; and Friday will focus on individuals with pre-existing conditions who, thanks to the ACA, can no longer be denied coverage. You may have noticed that only one of these days is specifically targeted toward children; that that won’t stop us from celebrating the law’s impacts on children every day! We know that the ACA benefits for each of these groups benefit children as well. Here’s how:

  • More than 6.5 million children in the U.S. live with their grandparents, many of whom are seniors. (Generations United)
  • Free preventive care and better benefits for women mean healthier mothers for America’s children – from pre-conception, on.
  • Small businesses employ half of all private sector employees, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. Better access to health care for small business employees means better care for millions of families.
  • Making it illegal to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions will protect access to health care for millions of children who suffer from conditions like asthma, diabetes, autism, and a variety of birth defects.
  • That’s why we see this whole week as an opportunity to reflect on the ways in which the ACA supports good health and positive development for our nation’s children.

The establishment of good health in the earliest days, months, and years of life lays the foundation for all future physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development. The need for health care during a child’s earliest years is therefore more crucial than at most other times in life, as preventive care can anticipate problems, heading them off before they take root, and screenings can catch conditions early. However, for many children, good health is obstructed by a lack of access to quality health care. In the United States today, 8.9% of children under age 6 are uninsured. And uninsured children are three times less likely to have seen a doctor than insured children. (For more information on the Good Health of infants and toddlers in your state, check out our State Baby Facts.) But the ACA has set out to change those numbers and the health outcomes of millions of children.

Throughout this week, we will be following the ACA’s nation-wide birthday party, and next Monday through Wednesday we will report on the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the subject. Stay tuned to hear about these events and how the law impacts babies. To kick things off, here are a few things that you should know about the ACA:

The ACA expands health care coverage to more children.

Today, Medicaid is the largest source of health care coverage for children in America, and starting in 2014, the ACA will expand Medicaid to include more families in need. (Due in large part to Medicaid, the national rate of uninsured low-income children of all ages fell from 28% in 1998 to 10.4% in 2010; and the ACA will lower that number further.) Medicaid is critical to ensuring that the youngest children have access to high quality, affordable, and consistent health care. And research demonstrates that Medicaid’s impact on the health outcomes of very young children is especially pronounced. Here are a few things you should know about babies, Medicaid, and the ACA:

  • Medicaid currently pays for 40% of births in America.
  • Medicaid is the largest source of health care coverage for children with special health care needs, and starting in 2014, the ACA will expand Medicaid to include more families in need.
  • Children make up more than half of all Medicaid beneficiaries but only 20% of Medicaid costs.

The ACA provides preventive care that is critical to healthy development.

In the past two years, an additional 14 million children have already benefitted from preventive services without their families having to pay a co-pay or premiums under their insurance plans. That means access to well-child visits, immunizations, regular screenings, and other services as laid out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (Georgetown Center on Children and Families) These services are critical to young children’s healthy development, and all too often babies grow up without them. In 2010, 25% of two-year-olds in the U.S. have not received crucial immunizations, and in 2009 more than 10% of children age four and younger had not received a well-child visit in the past year. (That number jumps to almost 60% for uninsured children.) (State Baby Facts) These unacceptable numbers are and will continue to be addressed by the preventive care provisions of the ACA.

  • Every dollar spent on vaccinations for children saves $16 down the line. (Children’s Defense Fund)
  • Childhood conditions like obesity, asthma, developmental delays, and mental health disorders can be successfully prevented or treated when identified early. Left untreated, however, they necessitate costly medical treatment in the future.

Remember to check out the blog this week and next for updates on the Affordable Care Act’s second birthday, and learn how you can get involved!

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