universal-healthcheckup-dbprerelease“Is it good for kids?” That is the question we at Kentucky Youth Advocates always ask of our decision-makers, and we are applying that simple litmus test to the debates around new federal healthcare legislation.

Health impacts every aspect of a child’s life and is one of the most important components of overall child well-being. For optimal health, children need access to health coverage that allows them to receive high quality care addressing their physical, behavioral, oral, and vision health needs.

Beyond the rhetoric and on both sides of the political aisle, we know that Kentucky communities care about kids. We at Kentucky Youth Advocates encourage leaders to keep those kids in mind and ensure any federal healthcare legislation include the following provisions:

  • Maintain essential health benefits, including preventive services, behavioral health treatment, and oral health care
    • All children need to be healthy and have access to comprehensive health care so they can succeed and reach their full potential. Essential health benefits include the care necessary for all children to thrive and grow from birth to adulthood.
    • Preventive services like immunizations, vision screening, and well-child checkups offer cost-effective ways to help kids stay healthy and should be covered without charge.
    • An increasing number of Kentucky families are experiencing the devastating effects of substance abuse, with parental substance abuse having a direct impact on children’s safety. To build on steps already taken by Congress and successfully address the issue, we need to ensure peoplehave access to substance abuse treatment without hurdles.
    • Substance abuse and mental health illness frequently coexist, and we need to protect access to treatment for parents and youth.
    • Kentucky has historically experienced poor oral health, and we seek to protect the improvements in access to care and preventive services. We as a Commonwealth cannot afford to move backward, as oral health is essential to overall healthand future employability.  Dental care needs to be a partner in the management of chronic diseases to achieve a healthier Kentucky.
  • Ensure health coverage of young adults until age 26
    • Many young adults struggle to gain an economic foothold and become financially independent from their parents.Dependent coverage until age 26 allows parents to help their children address healthcare needs and promotes the financial stability of young Americans.
    • Young adults need care for preventive treatment, regular check-ups, and unexpected health emergencies. Regular, early preventive care helps avoid costly chronic conditions and promotes financial stability.
  • Maintain former foster youth receiving health coverage until age 26 
    • Due to no fault of their own, foster youth are removed from their own homes and cared for by foster parents or in group homes. Often as the consequence of maltreatment, children and youth in foster care have high rates of acute and chronic medical, mental health, and developmental problems, making it vitally important that they have access to health care.
    • When youth are insured as they age out of foster care, consistent careand support throughout the transition can pave the path to a successful adulthood.  Lack of access to ongoing care will result in higher, more acute needs, and costly care.  At a minimum, youth who have aged out of foster care should be able to have coverage until age 26 like young adults who can stay on their parents’ coverage.
  • Ensure children and families are not denied coverage for pre-existing conditions 
    • Denying coverage or enforcing higher premiums for children and families with pre-existing conditions reduces access to care, creates financial burdens, and limits employment options for parents who are unable to pursue career changes due to the threat of losing coverage for their family.
    • Kentucky has some of the highest rates in the United States of life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, and chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, making it vital for residents with pre-existing conditions to not be denied
  • Ensure parents have health coverage 
    • We seek to protect working parents’ access to health insurance, because it affects the health and well-being of their children. When parents are insured, they are more likely to be healthy and ensure the health of their children, and their children are more likely to have health insurance.
    • Parents who have access to the preventive services they need to stay healthy enough for work can better provide for their families. Beyond that, a healthy workforce benefits state and local economies.
    • Parents who have health coverage are more likely to keep their children continuously enrolled in health coverage, resulting in childrenhaving access to healthcare when they need it. A recent Kentucky study showed that a parent having health insurance coverage was the most important factor for a child having health insurance coverage, even when other factors like income were considered.
    • In recent years, many moreKentucky children have secured health insurance. Research shows that, in addition to making it easier for children to enroll in coverage, providing affordable health coverage for parents is an important way to improve overall family health and reduce the number of uninsured children.
  • Prohibit annual and lifetime limits on health benefits
    • We need to maintain protections put in place to help Kentucky families avoid crippling medical debt, a leading cause of bankruptcy filings nationwide, by not imposing a dollar limit on health benefits.

Will the new federal healthcare legislation be good for kids? It’s a crucial time for Congressional leaders to make lasting, positive impacts on health outcomes for children and families across the state. We encourage leaders to include these provisions, and we encourage advocates to ask their elected officials to ensure any health care plan adequately addresses Kentucky kids’ needs today and in the future.