COVER ALL CHILDREN MEANS ALL CHILDREN
With a state budget surplus now far beyond $10 billion, it’s not only heartbreaking, but unacceptable that children suffer, while knowing that their suffering could have been prevented. Hispanic children are twice as likely to be uninsured than their white, Black, or Asian peers.
They are among the nearly 115,000 children who are uninsured in the state. Without health insurance, these kids miss out on wellness visits or regular care because parents can’t afford to pay out of pocket for their care. That’s when minor ailments turn into major conditions, often ending up in an emergency room or worse.
While kids pay the physical and emotional costs, hospitals and taxpayers pay the bill for unpaid emergency care and hospital stays.
Our HelpLine takes calls every day from parents who need help finding free or affordable health care. We get many more calls from school nurses and counselors desperate for help because they’re seeing children and teens suffer every day.
Recently, the HelpLine helped a young boy who was in agony with severe dental malformations. His condition was so bad he qualified for coverage under an “emergency medical condition” waiver that only goes to undocumented patients whose health is in serious jeopardy. Before finally getting help, he couldn’t eat, sleep, concentrate at school, or enjoy being a kid because his mouth was in so much pain.
Pennsylvania needs universal care for kids because this problem is not going to clear up on its own.
Already 13 states and Washington, D.C. have programs that make it possible for every child to get coverage. Even the deep red state of Utah does a better job than Pennsylvania making sure every child is insured, including children who are growing up among without legal citizenship documents. When California expanded its coverage to every child in 2016, there was a 34% decline in uninsurance rates, and kids were less likely to forgo medical or dental care or miss preventive health visits.
Health coverage doesn’t just benefit children and teens, it keeps the state in good financial health. Utah lawmakers estimate the cost of uncompensated care in their state is around $9 million a year so they passed a plan that will set aside $4.5 million specifically to cover low-income undocumented kids. “The intent of this is that they can go see the doctor, they can get their care before it becomes a crisis, they get preventive care, and then we’ll evaluate the thing,” said the Republican co-sponsor of the bill.
It’s time for Pennsylvania to follow the example of states like Utah and guarantee every child has health coverage – poor children, undocumented children, all children. Pennsylvania takes great pride in being among the first states to enact the children’s health insurance program (CHIP). Way back in 1991, our lawmakers made a commitment to our kids that they will be cared for when they’re sick, that they don’t have to suffer.
The theme for the 2023 Hispanic Heritage Month is Todos Somos, Somos Uno: We are All, We are One. Now it’s up to lawmakers to fulfill that promise to every child, every one of them.