Health-care law's 'tax' is money well spent on nation's children
The Supreme Court's affirmation of the Affordable Health Care Act includes admonition that the individual mandate is a tax. True, and it will turn out to be the best money ever spent on the public's behalf. Particularly kids.
Seattle Times editorial columnist
I'm always baffled to hear politicians tout education reforms, especially academic rigor, then give the backs of their hand to the health-care law. Healthy children make the best learners. With 8 million uninsured children nationwide, we should be cheering the Supreme Court's ruling.
The court's affirmation of the Affordable Health Care Act will turn out to be the best money ever spent on the public's behalf. Particularly for kids.
Washington and other states are going to dramatically expand Medicaid coverage. The states have the option not to expand, but the federal subsidies are too good to refuse. The federal government pays 100 percent of the expansion starting in 2014 for the first few years, and by 2020 pays 90 percent of it.
The practice of denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions was understood as patently unfair to adults. But it was equally disastrous for children with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
Washington state has 100,000 uninsured children. That number is large because many parents who did not qualify for Medicaid, did not know their children were eligible for a program called Apple Health. That program covers children from families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $66,150 for a family of four.
The genius of the new health-care law is that its expansion of Medicaid could unite parents and their kids into one health-insurance program. That includes the 35,000 Washington residents currently on the Basic Health Plan.
Thousands more who rely on the Disability Lifeline program will be folded into Medicaid.
The Affordable Care Act's changes largely affect adults. But health coverage for parents helps children. In fact, when we think about children and their overall health and well-being, let's agree that if their parents are not healthy and doing well, chances are the children are not doing well either.
A key aspect of the Affordable Care Act is a Navigator program placing people in schools, community health centers and other organizations to connect families with health care. For those who have never had coverage, the program will be critical in helping them understand how to use it, particularly for child checkups and immunizations.
Children grow into young adults, the demographic least likely to have health insurance. Students who graduated from college this month with staggering debt and limited job prospects can remain on their parents' insurance. But some college students come from families that cannot afford insurance. Expansion of Medicaid offers those parents coverage — and, by extension, their children.
An interesting wrinkle in the new law is that it extends funding for our Apple Health program another two years. But lawmakers must figure out by 2015 where kids fall in the new marketplace.
Among the questions they should consider: Will children be enrolled as part of a family insurance plan, since most families will be covered? Or will they remain separate in a program similar to Apple Health?
The beauty of the latter option is that kids are always covered, regardless of what happens with their parents.
Stay on lawmakers until they provide answers.
Lynne K. Varner's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org