Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

How health reform can work for kids

Ruth 08/19/09

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We’ve all heard about congressmen getting shouted down in town hall meetings during Congress’s August recess. It would be a shame if voices for kids got drowned out.

Fortunately, advocates for children have been hard at work in the other Washington, and some good progress has been made toward ensuring that kids get what they need in health reform. And a number of organizations have new resources out there to help the rest of us understand what’s going on.

Early concerns (including in the Seattle Times) about the fate of the successful and popular CHIP program —a lynchpin of Washington Apple Health for Kids—are being addressed. Before starting their August recess, the House added several amendments to their health reform bill that would benefit kids. These include an amendment by Rep. DeGette (D-CO) that would prevent children from being moved into health insurance exchanges until the government certifies that exchange coverage is comparable to the average CHIP plan.

VOICES for America’s Children has summarized the latest version of the House bill and what’s in it for kids in a new Congressional Action Update.

The Senate Finance Committee, which includes Sen. Maria Cantwell, hasn’t released its health reform bill. At present advocates are pushing for inclusion of protections the House bill in any final health reform legislation.

A recent entry on the Center for Children and Families blog, Say Ahhh!, points out that health reform done right will bring CHIP’s strengths into a system that works better for children and their families provided that coverage stays comprehensive, affordable and easy to sign up for.

The National Academy for State Health Policy has a new report highlighting these and other successful features that state CHIP directors recommend incorporating into a reformed health system. It’s pretty dry and wonky, but the paper makes some important points about what’s needed to make the system work.

Right now the debate about health care reform is impassioned and the urgency of getting a bill done before the end of the year can make it feel like all these changes are going to happen right away. It’s important to remember that today’s debates are laying the groundwork for a new system that will likely take years to establish. That’s especially true for CHIP, which the House bill would keep in place until 2013.

Until affordable insurance is available for all, families will continue to rely on programs like Washington’s Apple Health for Kids, which includes federal Medicaid and CHIP programs. So while the Children’s Alliance has a voice in national health reform efforts, we’re also working to ensure that Apple Health remains a strong program that Washington kids can count on.

Photo copyright © 2007 sean dreilinger