On October 26, the New England Alliance for Children’s Health (NEACH), an initiative of Community Catalyst, held its annual Children’s Health Care Summit in Manchester, New Hampshire. The event brought together 90 of our state partners from across the region to learn about and discuss a wide range of issues related to advancing access to high-quality health care for New England’s children. While every session at the event was positively received, we wanted to call your attention to two that we thought might be of particular interest to Hub readers.

Jocelyn Guyer, Co-Executive Director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) and a frequent contributor to CCF’s Say Ahhh! children’s health policy blog, gave a presentation entitled, Down in the Dirt: Key Policy Issues for Children and Families in the Health Reform Law. Up until this point, there have been many good summaries out there of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and, in particular, its impact on children and families. However, this presentation examines the ACA’s impact on children and families at a slightly deeper level by outlining five key policy questions for children and families:

1. How will “no wrong door” enrollment (i.e., ensuring that those seeking coverage are screened for all health subsidy programs and enrolled without requiring multiple applications) really work?

2. What will your state’s new Medicaid and CHIP income threshold be?

3. What will happen to children with inadequate private coverage?

4. How will we ensure continuity of care for children moving between public programs and the Exchange?

5. How will families secure the information they need to navigate the new health care system?

Keeping these policy questions at the forefront of federal and state advocacy as we move deeper into ACA implementation will be absolutely essential because the answers to them will largely determine the extent to which children and families see the promise of the ACA fulfilled.

NEACH was also fortunate to have Roberta Friedman, Director of Public Policy at the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, speak to the attendees at the summit. Her presentation, Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes to Reduce Obesity, reviewed the strong scientific evidence illustrating the detrimental impact of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on our children’s health and explained the policy rationale for instituting a penny per ounce excise tax to curb consumption and raise revenues for health programs. The presentation is full of valuable data related to this issue. The fact that SSB consumption is linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dental carries and osteoporosis indicates how serious an issue this is for the health of our children.

These presentations are only a sampling of the thoughtful and insightful discussions that took place at the summit. NEACH plans to hold the summit again in 2011. So for those of you in New England, we hope to see you there.

—Patrick M. Tigue, Children’s Health Care Coordinator New England Alliance for Children’s Health