Medicaid, CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) form the foundation of children’s health coverage. These programs are interwoven and deeply connected to one another and our overall state safety net system. Federal and state lawmakers are considering proposals to change the ACA, CHIP and Medicaid. A repeal, cut or restructure of one program affects the others, and puts the care of Utah children and families at risk.
Thanks to the ACA, Medicaid and CHIP, we have seen the rate of uninsured Utah children drop from 11% in 2011 to a historic low of 7% in 2015. We cannot afford to let child health coverage, adequacy, and affordability move backwards. We must ensure that we sustain and build on our unprecedented success in covering children.
Children must not lose any ground. Voting to repeal the ACA without a replacement plan attached threatens the health of children and families. There are 38,000 Utah children enrolled in ACA coverage. At least 87% of Utahns enrolled in the exchange are receiving subsidies. The ACA provides protections for children and families, increases affordability and establishes evidence-based essential health benefits. Any legislative or short-term action should not result in more children or families becoming uninsured or receiving fewer benefits. We should instead be addressing the needs of the thousands of Utahns who remain uninsured in the coverage gap.
Medicaid is the cornerstone for children’s health coverage. Congressional leaders must support the continued stability and affordability of the Medicaid program. Medicaid is the safety net health care program for low-income children. Over 200,000 Utah children rely on Medicaid insurance coverage, and its pediatric benefits are considered the gold standard for child health, particularly for children and youth with special health care needs. Changes to Medicaid’s financing structure through a block grant or per capita cap would undermine the program’s integrity by creating gaps in state funding. They would likely lead to limits placed on the programs, such as a reduction in benefits or fewer kids covered. Proposals to promote state innovation need to strengthen our safety net for kids and families, not weaken it.
Block grants or per capita caps would undermine Medicaid program integrity. Changes to Medicaid’s financing structure through a block grant or per capita cap would create large shortfalls in state funding. These would inevitably lead to limits placed on the program, such as a reduction in benefits or fewer children covered. The impact of these cuts would be even greater when utilization or enrollment goes up. For example, Utah would not be able to keep up with Medicaid demand during a recession, when many more children become newly eligible for and enroll in Medicaid. During the last recession, Medicaid added 30,000 enrollees in one year, a growth rate significantly higher than previous years. Under a block grant or per capita cap structure, the state would not be able to meet this sudden demand. Learn more about how block grants would harm Utah's budget.
Extend funding for CHIP for at least five years. A robust, long-term extension of CHIP funding for at least five years would help stabilize coverage for the 8.4 million U.S. children who rely on CHIP and provide certainty to Utah amid potentially significant changes to the broader coverage landscape.
Working families depend on these vital health care programs. What is at stake if the ACA is repealed, or changes are made to CHIP and Medicaid?
- The number of uninsured Utah children would more than double. By 2019, at least 141,000 children would be uninsured.
- The number of uninsured Utah parents would jump from 82,000 to 171,000. Research shows that children are better off when their parents have health insurance coverage.
- Families could see their costs go up further. Prior to the ACA, women were charged as much as 15% more than men for the same coverage.
- Families and individuals would lose protection from exclusions and discrimination. Approximately 1.2 million Utahns – including 411,000 children- no longer experience lifetime limits on coverage now that the ACA is in effect.
- 19,000 Utahns could lose their jobs.
We are putting our children’s future at risk by failing to guarantee Utah children and families have stable health insurance coverage. All children and families need consistent, comprehensive and affordable care.
For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.
How can you be involved?
Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more. Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts. And don't forget to join our listserv to stay informed!
We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.
Special thanks to American Express, our "Making a Difference All Year Long" sponsor.