By Jocelyn Guyer, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (http://theccfblog.org/)
A record number of people are now living in poverty, including one in five children, according to U.S. Census figures (http://ccf.georgetown.edu/index) released last week. More than 50 million people reported no health insurance coverage in 2009, which translates into an uninsured rate of 16.7 percent. The Census report underscored the harsh toll the recession has had on America’s children and families.
Poverty and lack of health insurance pose huge risks to child health, development and well-being. Not only do children need stable health care coverage, they need healthy parents who are able to earn a living wage (http://theccfblog.org/2010/07/many-children-lose-insurance-when-parents-lose-jobs.html).
Children would have fared even worse if it hadn’t been for the stability provided by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Due to the hard work of many children’s health advocates and government leaders, these lifelines to children remained in tact during turbulent economic times. Medicaid and CHIP helped prevent more children from suffering the same fate as their parents and other adults in their lives as the uninsured rate among children held steady at 10 percent in 2009. (That represents 7.5 million uninsured children too many but at least it was not going in the wrong direction.
Building a more stable source of health coverage for their parents and other adults, as envisioned in the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, will fill a critical gap for struggling families. And with so many families yet to find solid footing in the wake of the economic crisis, it will be crucial to maintain access for children to Medicaid and CHIP in the months ahead.