Rep. Waxman’s Legacy Includes Significant Improvements in Children’s Health Coverage

Like many of you, I will truly miss Representative Henry Waxman when he retires from Congress at the end of this term.  I admire his work ethic, deep concern for others and tireless efforts to stand up for those who need his help the most.  Most of all, I admire his ability to get things done.  He is a prolific legislator and has a long, long list of accomplishments.  Certainly one of his most important and lasting legacies will be his successful efforts to improve health coverage for children and families.

His tenacity and unwavering commitment to improving lives led to many improvements in Medicaid.  At a time when most social programs were on the chopping block, Rep. Waxman managed to expand Medicaid coverage to children of low-wage earners, low-income pregnant women and low-income households transitioning from welfare to work.   Rep. Waxman also wrote laws improving the benefits available under Medicaid including the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit for children. He was also instrumental in efforts to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

In one chart, here is how Rep. Waxman improved the lives of America’s uninsured children:

Improvements to children's coverage levels following Rep. Waxman's successful efforts.
Improvements to children’s coverage levels following Rep. Waxman’s successful efforts.

Thanks to his successful efforts to improve Medicaid and enact CHIP, the uninsured rate for children declined from 13.9% in 1984 to 6.6% in 2012.  His work on the Affordable Care Act will make even more improvements in the uninsured rate for children, their parents and other adults in years to come.

(Special thanks to our friends Jenny Kenney and Nathaniel Anderson at the Urban Institute for putting together the chart.)


Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy.