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What does health care reform mean for kids?

August 01, 2012

Just those three little words - health care reform - have the potential to give me a headache. That’s not because of my personal political views one way or the other, but because of the ongoing debate that continues to rage in the public forum. The sensational news headlines, the talking heads on television, the doomsday predictions: it’s simply too much. I don’t want to argue or hear others argue about it.

What I realized, though, is that because I’ve tired of the rancorous debate, I’ve tuned out some of the important things, too. I’ve begun to take a second look at what health care reform means for myself, my family and my community.

Want to know the most surprising thing I discovered?

There actually is something that both sides agree on. It’s shocking, I know.

Even more shocking? The things that they agree on which, of course, are the ones you don’t hear anyone talking (or arguing!) about are really good for our kids. Not just my kid, but every kid.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has provided several key protections for children:

Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on coverage

Prior to health care reform, health plans could place a cap on the amount of coverage a person could receive in a lifetime. Children with chronic illnesses (asthma, diabetes, congenital heart defects, for example) could max out their benefits and be terminated from their private health plan. Children with ongoing medical needs now can continue to receive care through their health plan without the threat of meeting a lifetime limit.

Young adults may remain on their parent’s insurance until 26 years old

For young adults unable to acquire insurance coverage through an employer, they are now eligible to maintain coverage as a dependent.

Health plans cannot deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition

Insurance companies are no longer allowed to charge higher premiums because of a person’s health status. This affords those families with chronically ill children the opportunity to change insurance plans (whether this is due to a change in employment, affordability, or other reasons) without fear of being denied coverage due to a child’s illness.

In addition, the Act requires that preventive services be provided to children with no co-pay, pregnancy and newborn care are covered in all health plans as well as vision and dental coverage for children.

These components of the law took effect in 2010, and were part of the legislation recently upheld by the Supreme Court ruling. Dr. Robert Block, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics explained the benefits children have received since the law was implemented:

“Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, millions of children with pre-existing conditions gained health care coverage; 14 million children with private insurance received preventive health services with no co-pay; and 3.1 million more young adults gained coverage through their parents’ plans. These are just a few of the law’s investments in child health…”

I recognize that how the Affordable Care Act affects kids is only one facet of an incredibly complex issue. There are still many unanswered questions, unresolved dilemmas surrounding implementation, and strong opinions on every side. But, I believe in celebrating our successes when we have the privilege to do so.

More children having access to quality health care and sick children receiving better insurance coverage is a win for everyone. I’m grateful that we have chosen to protect those who are the most vulnerable, and who cannot speak for themselves.

More than anything, though, I’m relieved that if I ever have to make the tough choices that the parent of a sick child has to make, there are a few more safeguards to help my child get the care she needs.

For more information on health care reform, visit: