New research confirms what we’ve known all along – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) improves the lives of families. According to a recent Health Affairs analysis, over 700,000 children who were eligible for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, but unenrolled, gained coverage since the ACA’s implementation.
According to Health Affairs, these 710,000 low-income children came to be enrolled through so-called “‘welcome mat” effects of the ACA’s coverage expansion initiatives. The analysis found that the substantial public education and outreach efforts around the ACA’s enrollment opportunities, as well as the millions of parents who became eligible for Medicaid under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program contributed to this major uptick in enrollment among already-eligible, but uninsured, children.
This research demonstrates yet another benefit for the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults under the ACA: increased and improved coverage for children. It may seem obvious that when parents sign up for coverage, their children get enrolled too, but it bears repeating – especially in the remaining 19 non-expansion states – that closing the coverage gap supports families and children, not just low-income adults.
The research also underlines the importance of robust outreach and enrollment efforts. Unfortunately, recent actions by the Trump administration threaten the gains highlighted in this report. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it will slash funding for HealthCare.gov advertising by 90 percent, as well as cut the critical in-person assistance program, known as the Navigator program, by almost half. This decision will almost certainly result in a decreased volume of children’s enrollment.
To help families enroll in coverage and support their health, Congress should take action now to ensure adequate funding for outreach and education activities regarding ACA coverage and Medicaid, as well as for the CHIP, which is set to expire at the end of this month. Protecting coverage programs and providing outreach and education for both parents and children is the best path to making sure families get covered.