Ensuring Our Kids Have a Healthy Summer

On Tuesday, June 7, NCLR joined another weekly #SaludTues Twitter chat to discuss children’s health and how parents can ensure their kids stay healthy over the summer. Because students are on summer vacation, they may lack access to regular nutritious meals and the routine that the school year provides. Luckily, there are many ways parents can keep their young ones healthy throughout the hot summer months.

Below are selected highlights from our chat:

A Historic Step for Children’s Health and Well-Being in California

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Photo: The California Endowment Facebook page

All children—no matter who they are or where they are from—should have the opportunity to be healthy and reach their full potential. On May 16, California took a historic step toward this goal by providing all children who are income-eligible the opportunity for full coverage through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) regardless of immigration status.

Estimates suggest that upwards of 170,000 children will be eligible. Kids who are insured through programs like Medicaid do better in the classroom and have greater economic opportunity as adults.

But this historic moment in California’s history did not just happen on its own. Thanks to the bold leadership of State Senator Ricardo Lara as well as a tremendous organizing effort from health, immigrant rights, and children’s groups, as well as others in the advocacy community, SB 75 or Health4AllKids is now a reality. While it is not the first state to provide coverage to all children regardless of status (Washington state, DC, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts have implemented similar laws), California is the largest.

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A Victory for Children’s Health in Arizona

12973164_10153601388876247_1216544096698163255_oLast week, a bipartisan effort in the Arizona state legislature secured passage of legislation to unfreeze KidsCare, the state’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program. In doing so, Democrats and Republicans came together to restore a critical program that will provide thousands of children with the opportunity and the ability to live a healthy life.

This is a big win for children and families across the state. With the restoration of KidsCare, children living in families who earn a little too much to qualify for Medicaid, but still lack affordable coverage options through the private market, now have access to health coverage. The state’s Medicaid agency estimates that the restoration of KidsCare will provide between 30,000 and 40,000 children with affordable health coverage specifically designed for kids.

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The Benefits of Restoring KidsCare for Arizona’s Children and Families

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Photo: Children’s Action Alliance facebook page

All children deserve the opportunity to grow up healthy and thrive, and access to quality, affordable health coverage is critical to making that happen. Research shows that children with health coverage have greater academic success and increased economic opportunities as adults. However, for too many children in Arizona, this opportunity is out of reach. Arizona is the only state in the country without an active Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as KidsCare in Arizona, a key coverage option for low-income children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but may not be able to afford coverage in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

Increasing opportunities for health coverage in Arizona is particularly important for Latino children. With one out of eight Latino children in Arizona uninsured, or 89,000 children, Arizona has the fourth-highest number of uninsured Latino children in the country, behind only California, Texas, and Florida. Programs like KidsCare are especially meaningful for Latino children and their families. A recent survey of CHIP enrollment numbers in 10 states found that Latino children accounted for more than half of enrollees. In neighboring Nevada, which recently leapfrogged Arizona in the children’s health insurance rankings, more than 75 percent of CHIP enrollees are Latino.

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Now Is the Time to Build on the ACA’s Gains, Not Dismantle Them

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Last week, President Obama vetoed a bill that would have left millions of Americans without health insurance and access to affordable, quality care. Since the law’s implementation, nearly 18 million people—including four million Latinos—have gained health coverage. Despite those important gains, efforts have continued by Republicans in Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), culminating most recently in the passage of a bill repealing the ACA. Thanks to the President’s veto, the ACA continues to be the law of the land. Rather than focusing on stripping health insurance away from millions of people, Congress should work to build off existing gains and increase the opportunity for even more individuals and families to enjoy the peace of mind and financial security that comes with having insurance.

Despite the historic gains in insurance coverage, Latinos still have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with one in five lacking health coverage. That is nearly three times the rate of non-Hispanic Whites. Our community stands to gain a great deal under the ACA as organizations like NCLR and our community partners in the NCLR Affiliate Network work to connect Latinos with the information and resources to enroll in health coverage that best meets their needs. At NCLR, we know there is more work to be done to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health coverage. Now is the time to double down on these efforts, not reverse them.

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As we look to the work ahead, Medicaid expansion—a critical opportunity to further increase the number of insured individuals—remains a key piece of unfinished business under the ACA. While 30 governors have accepted federal funds through the ACA, which allow more low-income people in their states to be eligible for Medicaid, the rest of our nation’s governors have not. These state decisions leave some of our most vulnerable without any opportunity for health coverage, putting them at greater risk of illness and medical debt. If states such as Texas and Florida—which have large Latino populations—expanded Medicaid eligibility, they could make a big difference in reducing the number of uninsured. In fact, if every state expanded Medicaid, nearly 3.7 million Latinos could gain health insurance. We need leaders to step up and do what’s right on behalf of their most vulnerable residents.

Health care is an important issue to many Americans, including Latinos. A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans believe that government should be responsible for ensuring that everyone has health coverage. When Gallup compared the views of Whites and Non-Whites, 65 percent of Non-Whites agreed that the government should be responsible for ensuring health coverage, compared with 44 percent of Whites. The Latino community has experienced historic gains in coverage thanks to the ACA, and we need leaders with the vision and commitment to advance these gains for the well-being and future success of our families and our country.