Response to American Academy of Pediatrics New Policy Statement

The following is a statement by Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy in response to American Academy of Pediatrics New Policy Statement:

“I applaud the new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics outlining the direction that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – the largest health insurers for children – need to go. This new blueprint recognizes the central role of Medicaid and CHIP in improving child health and reducing racial disparities. It is based on the core value that all children should have their health needs fully met no matter where they live, regardless of family income or color of their skin, or what their immigration status may be. America cannot afford to leave any child behind.

We’ve argued for some time that policymakers must embrace bold steps to ensure that all children are insured. These steps would move our country closer to the day when newborns always leave the hospital with health coverage and parents can rest assured that their child will be covered until they start school with no renewals needed.

Gaps in coverage are problematic for children for many reasons – including asthma that goes untreated, missed checkups, and debt-inducing trips to the ER for health complications that could have been prevented if the child had health coverage. And with children and youth facing an unprecedented mental health crisis, it is critical to ensure that a stronger network of pediatric providers of all kinds are supported and insurer’s requirements for specific diagnostic codes don’t create barriers to treatment for mental health needs.  We also know that Medicaid coverage in childhood has lasting benefits: leading to better health and financial security in adulthood and higher educational attainment.

These policy recommendations are timely given that the U.S. is likely backsliding on child health coverage with about 2 million fewer children enrolled in Medicaid so far this year due to unwinding, with many likely remaining eligible and without clear evidence that the majority of them have a new coverage source. Bold action is needed now to get kids back on track and to permanently fix the gaps in the current health coverage system. AAP has done extensive research and laid out a long-term vision, along with interim strategies, to build a more equitable health care system and improve access to health care for all children.”

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.