Children thrive when their family is healthy, stable and secure. When parents are able to have access to healthcare, this shapes the health and well-being of their children as well. The holidays are a particularly special time for many families. It is a time to celebrate, to share traditions that have been passed down from generations and to feel connected to each other in their own unique way.
But the holidays can also be a time of additional stress for families who are living with little to no margins of income. For these families, it is difficult to make sure their basic expenses are covered, with little to no room for additional expenses. These parents are not thinking about gifts and toys for their children during the holidays — they just want to make sure they can take them to the doctor if they are sick.
Research has shown that when parents receive affordable health coverage, they are more likely to sign their children up for coverage as well, thus ensuring the health of the entire family. But when North Carolina’s legislators declined to expand health coverage for adults under the Affordable Care Act, that left 500,000 of our North Carolina friends and neighbors in the coverage gap — at risk of going untreated for preventative and serious health threats because they can’t afford care. One medical bill could put the family into bankruptcy.
While North Carolina has made huge gains in providing health care coverage for children, there are still 119,600 children who remain uninsured. That is the total populations of Asheville, Hendersonville and Lexington, N.C., combined. When children are uninsured, they have unmet physical and mental health needs and are more at risk to fall behind developmentally. This makes it difficult for them to catch up with their peers physically, socially and academically. Healthy children typically grow to be healthy adults.
The Affordable Care Act
Currently, the Affordable Care Act provides coverage for millions of Americans, which has the positive ripple effect of parents signing their children up for health care as well. Under the ACA, if your plan covers children, you can now add or keep your children on your health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old. Thanks to this provision, over 2.3 million young people who would otherwise have been uninsured have gained coverage nationwide.
President-elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which leaves 613,000 North Carolinians insured through the ACA facing an uncertain future. Of that number, close to 90 percent are receiving financial assistance.
Health care coverage is especially crucial for parents, for when their health and well-being are secure, they are able to be better caregivers for their children. Brittany is the mother of a bubbly 8-year-old daughter. “When I didn’t have my medicine, it made my life very difficult,” she says. “Once I was able to get health care coverage again, I was able to stay on my medication and raise her with very few setbacks.”
What can you do?
Although President-elect Trump has vowed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, we must be aware that it is not solely in his power to do so. Congress is responsible for writing the language of any new legislation, including any changes to the Affordable Care Act, and the bill will need to pass with a majority vote through both houses of Congress before going to the president for a signature.
Take Action: Now is the time to let your representatives know that you believe that everyone deserves access to healthcare. When everyone can see a doctor or get preventative care, we have a stronger economy, healthier communities and stable families. Sign this petition to Sen. Thom Tillis, Sen. Richard Burr, Rep. Patrick McHenry and Rep. Mark Meadows at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/support-access-to-healthcare-for-everyone?source=direct_link&.
Let’s make the holidays a time when every family can celebrate being together, free from the worry of how to get the health care they need. Because everyone deserves to see a doctor when they need to.
Jodi Ford is the outreach and engagement coordinator for Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County, a local nonprofit that believes all children deserve to reach their full potential. The organization helps achieve this by surrounding children and their families with supports that help them succeed in their schools, communities and homes. Whether that’s providing a food box, tutoring in school and after school, getting school supplies, teaching parenting skills or helping families meet basic needs, the nonprofit is there. Along with direct services, the organization advocates for policies that support families with local and state policymakers. To find out more, go to www.childrenfirstcisbc.org.