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Hide-and-Seek: The Game of Child Health Care

by Staci Marks on May 15, 2012

Whether you are expecting your first child, raising a toddler, or just now have a pressing need, considering health insurance for your children can be a daunting proposition. There are several programs currently in place to provide medical, dental, and hospital care for your precious little ones. Changes to these programs and to the health care system in general are on the horizon though.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

Families of four that make approximately $45,000 a year or less may be eligible for health care for their children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This insurance program provides free or low-cost health coverage for more than 7 million children who qualify, ages 19 and under. CHIP offers coverage for U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants and is now available in every state. Included in the program are routine check-ups, immunizations, hospital and dental care, as well as lab and x-ray services. In a fairly balanced approach, preventative care is free but in certain cases, minimal premiums may be required.

Medicaid

The Office of the Press Secretary reported in 2009 that President Barack Obama injected more than $15 billion into the government funded health care program, Medicaid, which is available to families of four with a yearly income of $29,725 or less. The coverage is similar to that of CHIP’s with the inclusion of vision. In most cases, services cost nothing to the family. Rather, the funding for this program comes from taxpaying Americans.

United Health Care Children’s Foundation

United Health Care Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) is offering up to $5,000 in grants to applicants in need of financial assistance to help pay for their children’s health care. This supplement to insurance plans is open to children 16 or younger who meet certain economic guidelines. In 2011 alone, UHCCF gave out more than 1,200 grants to United States families. These grants helped pay for a wide variety of medical conditions such as cancer, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, diabetes, and more. UHCCF’s aim is to help even more families in 2012 through increased fundraising efforts. The UHCCF is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing public charity.

Future of Child Health Care

The Republicans and Democrats are in the beginning stages of a battle over the budget in order to make cuts to stem the flow of debt. Part of the reform the Republican Party has suggested is to make substantial cuts to social services, Medicare, and Medicaid. This showdown started last summer over the rushed bill that Republicans passed to raise the debt ceiling with a guarantee that there would be a deficit reduction of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The committee in charge of producing these cuts failed to reach an agreement in November and both parties see the $55 billion cuts to military spending in January as potentially damaging.

The Republicans released a proposal bill that avoids military cuts and instead reduces the medical costs for taxpayers. The Democrats, on the other hand, would like to increase taxes to pay for the medical programs in addition to slashing funding to our military. Though the numbers would be favorable in reducing debt in the short term, it would place an enormous burden on tax payers as well as dramatically increasing risk to national security. Looking specifically at the impact to health care, however, we can see two major effects whichever way the hammer falls on the budget.

According to The New York Times, if the GOP passes its proposed budget adjustments, the number of people on food stamps would decrease by 1.8 million, and a possible 300,000 children would lose their health insurance coverage through CHIP and Medicaid. The numbers may seem drastic but in reality are much less significant when you consider the fact that 29.5 million children are currently covered, Results.org indicates. Three hundred thousand represents fractionally more than 1% of the total children covered with Medicaid. Needless to say, the projected impact of cuts to Medicaid and Medicare barks much louder than it bites.

In contrast, increasing taxes and cutting military spending would appear to aid the 300,000 children with health care but put the other 99% at an even greater long-term risk. If Americans have to pay more out of pocket for other people’s health care, they won’t be able to pay for their own insurance. What happens when they can’t afford their own policies? They have to use the exact program they were previously funding and the cycle of dependency without financial means continues downward. Taxing the pants off of Americans to pay for an economically damaging policy is not doing anyone a favor.

The proposed changes by both the Republicans and Democrats are certain to occur over the next few months, but one thing is sure regardless of what change takes place: someone will have to pay for health care.

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