Equal Coverage for All Kids is Essential to Public Health in the Commonwealth
Well-baby and well-child visits, vaccines, eyeglasses, and dental services are the building blocks of a healthy childhood and provide an essential foundation for wellness throughout the life-span. Data shows that comprehensive Medicaid coverage facilitates access to this care in childhood, and although children’s health insurance coverage in Massachusetts is strong, gaps still exist. While we can be proud that 98% of the Commonwealth’s children have some form of health insurance, we must address the inequities that remain.
Today in Massachusetts thousands of low-income children meet every requirement for MassHealth eligibility except for their immigration status. As a result, these children can access only the bare-bones Children’s Medical Security Plan (CMSP) as their primary coverage. This provides preventive care but places strict annual caps and limits on other benefits such as prescription drugs, outpatient mental health visits and durable medical equipment. As a result, many children are left without the full range of care that they need to live, learn and thrive here in the Commonwealth.
This is why Health Care For All (HCFA) and our Children’s Health Access Coalition (CHAC) are teaming up with partners across Massachusetts to pass An Act to Ensure Equitable Health Coverage for Children (HB 162 / SB 677) with lead sponsors Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Dave Rogers. The legislation would expand full comprehensive MassHealth coverage to all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status because all kids deserve an equal start at building a healthy life and preventing long-term health problems.
Real stories guide our campaign. Stories of children like seven year-old Sonya who has Type-1 Diabetes. Her doctors had great difficulty regulating her blood sugar levels until she got an insulin pump, which changed her life. However, the medical supplies to keep Sonya’s pump operable cost approximately $1,000 each month. In less than one month, she exceeded CMSP’s $500 coverage limit on durable medical equipment. Sonya’s mother has to rely on charity care and donations to pay for the supplies, and Sonya’s health was at risk.
Data grounds our campaign and shows us that investments in comprehensive coverage for children today means healthier adults tomorrow, too. Research shows that children with comprehensive coverage are more likely to receive preventive care and are less likely to have unmet medical and dental needs. The benefits of comprehensive coverage extend beyond the doctor’s office and show that children with comprehensive coverage have increased success in school and higher educational attainment than kids who don’t have comprehensive coverage. Finally, comprehensive coverage in childhood has been linked to better overall health in adulthood, including lower prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or heart attack, and obesity.
HCFA advocates for health justice by working to promote health equity and ensure coverage and access for all. Equitable, comprehensive coverage for all kids is a crucial piece of the health equity puzzle. To share your story, learn more about the campaign or to get involved, please contact Natalie Litton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617)275-2897.
- Natalie Litton, Policy & Project Coordinator, Health Care For All
This blog is part of HCFA’s 2019 National Public Health Awareness Week series.