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Release Date: March 10, 2017
“I believe that the odds were stacked against me from the day I was born. She was never really a mother to me. She was never around,” says Bethany, a Washington, D.C. student born to a mother struggling with addiction. Bethany became involved in the child welfare system at age four: “I remember they took me away, and then I got to shower for the first time in months, because at the time we were living in an abandoned apartment. It felt wonderful! I was finally able to get clean.” After that Bethany went through a series of placements in foster homes, hospitals, and residential treatment centers which relied on Medicaid to provide the critical health and mental health services she needed. With the right supports, including treatment for depression, she started to thrive in school. Today Bethany is a high school senior on track to become valedictorian and looking forward to being the first in her family to go to college. But without the health and mental health care she needed how would Bethany’s story have ended?
The Children’s Defense Fund has made giving every child a healthy start a core part of our mission for all of our 44 years. We are extremely concerned that the American Health Care Act under consideration by Congress right now would undo more than 50 years of progress made expanding comprehensive child-appropriate health coverage to tens of millions of children. Today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, and the Children’s Health insurance Program (CHIP), 95 percent of children in America have health coverage — an historic high. But now the American Health Care Act is snatching away what is a basic human right and threatens all this at a time when our children need us to continue to move forward, not backwards. As the bill moves closer to a vote by the full House of Representatives, we are urging Congress to “vote NO.”
The American Health Care Act:
CDF calls on Congress to protect children’s current health coverage as it considers the American Health Care Act and vote NO unless significant changes are made to ensure the “do no harm” standard, a core tenet of medical treatment, is followed. The American Health Care Act would reverse progress and make many millions of children worse off by depriving them of the comprehensive and affordable child-appropriate coverage they are guaranteed today, jeopardizing their futures and also the nation’s future economic and national security. Children who cannot see or hear the teacher, have undiagnosed attention deficit disorders, or are suffering from depression and other mental health disorders are less likely to learn in school. Congress and the Administration should continue to make it easier — not harder — for children like Bethany to get the critical supports they need to survive, thrive and contribute to our nation. So help us speak up.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.
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