It is a well-documented fact that connecting parents with coverage has a positive impact on children and now Maine Children’s Alliance has released a report that shows how disconnecting parents from coverage negatively impacts children.
About 28,500 working Maine parents lost coverage after the state scaled back coverage in 2012. Prior to 2012, Maine offered Medicaid coverage to parents earning twice the federal poverty level but now only offers coverage to those living at 100% FPL or below. Although the cuts were only intended to impact adults, kids lost coverage too.
The following chart is a stark reminder of how the health insurance status of parents impacts children. Enrollment in CubCare, Maine’s CHIP program, dropped significantly following the cut in eligibility for parents.
Previous research has shown that children with uninsured parents have a greater risk of gaps in coverage, and are less likely to receive check-ups, preventive care and other health care services. When parents are uninsured, it adds to the financial and psychological stress on the parents and makes it more likely that preventable health problems will become worse or more complex.
One group of parents and children put at greatest risk by the MaineCare eligibility cuts are new mothers and their infants. For almost a decade, the eligibility of children, pregnant women and parents aligned at 200% FPL and women remained relatively secure in their coverage in Maine. As a result of the recent MaineCare eligibility cuts, new mothers with income between 100% and 200% FPL will receive notices that they are about to lose coverage when their babies are only about eight to ten weeks old, according to the report. New moms face enough stress without having to try to find alternative coverage or come to terms with the fact that although their children may remain covered, they will be uninsured. The report explains the importance of health coverage to new moms in the following way:
Maintaining health coverage during the postpartum period couldn’t be more important for infants and their mothers. Healthy development is especially critical in the early months when the baby’s brain architecture is being shaped, dependent upon nurturing, responsive interactions with her closest adults. It is the child’s early experiences and relationships that provide the foundational structures in the brain on which all learning and development is based.
Ensuring that parents have health insurance is important for children even when children themselves have coverage. The report outlines several recommendations for state policymakers to improve health care for Maine families with children. They include accepting the federal funding to extend Medicaid coverage to uninsured adults up to 138% FPL, creating a Basic Health Plan as a mid-step for those between 138% and 200% FPL, taking steps to reduce “churn” and eliminating the CHIP waiting period.