Where are the Parents in Health Reform? – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

These are uncertain times for children and their families – the threat of job and health insurance losses haunt many. Health reform could provide the peace of mind families need, but it is important to keep in mind that children are just one piece of the family puzzle. Parents must not be forgotten as the details of health reform are worked out.

Currently, eleven million parents are uninsured and the problem is especially acute among parents with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), with 41 percent lacking coverage. Close to 4 million children enrolled in Medicaid have at least one uninsured parent and almost 1.5 million children enrolled in CHIP live in families where at least one parent is uninsured. However, very few of these parents currently are eligible for public coverage. The median Medicaid income threshold for parents (not reflecting earnings disregards) is 41 percent of the FPL and 10 states have a threshold below 25 percent of the FPL. Providing Medicaid to parents with incomes up to 133 percent of the FPL would increase the eligibility threshold in 39 states.

The health and wellbeing of children depends on whether they have access to affordable, high-quality health coverage, but also can be dramatically affected by the health of their parents and the financial stability of their families. A large body of research indicates that providing coverage to parents promotes coverage and access to care for their children as well.

Getting health reform done will offer a crucial lifeline to families during these turbulent economic times. Affordable coverage for parents needs to be a part of the discussion.

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