Ensure Every Child Access to Health Care

Priority: Ensure Every Child Access to Health and Mental Health Coverage that is Comprehensive, Affordable and Easy to Get and to Keep.

The Problem:

Thanks in large part to Medicaid and CHIP, the number of uninsured children in the United States is at a historic low. While our country has made tremendous progress expanding health coverage for children, today, nearly 4.2 million children under age 19 (5.3 percent) are uninsured — nearly one in nineteen. School-aged children (ages 6-17) are more likely than younger children to be uninsured, and account for the majority of uninsured children in the nation. Many of the uninsured children are actually eligible for coverage under Medicaid or CHIP and just need help accessing it. The children who remain uninsured are often the hardest to reach because of various barriers to enrollment and retention. They are also more likely to be homeless, come from families with mixed immigration status, or have other risk factors for the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.

Why It Matters:

People who are uninsured live sicker and die sooner. The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, yet children's health status in our country as measured by selected indicators is among the worst in the industrialized world. Poor health in childhood can cast long shadows later in life and funnel uninsured and underinsured children and youths into the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. Undiagnosed, untreated and poorly managed health and mental health problems increase a child’s chances of being born at low birthweight, starting school not ready to learn, falling behind in school, dropping out, being neglected or abused, and ending up in costly juvenile detention facilities, all of which place them at greater risk for entering the adult criminal justice system, and for lower earnings as adults.   

What Must Be Done:

We must ensure every child has access to affordable and comprehensive health and mental health coverage that is easy to get and to keep. With so many of the uninsured children eligible for health coverage but not yet enrolled, we must use innovative strategies, like school-based outreach and enrollment, to help children and families get the health coverage they need to survive and thrive.

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