This blog was originally posted on Maine Kids VOICE

Mainers have an opportunity to extend health insurance to almost 70,000 Mainers. A proposal for bipartisan compromise on a Maine Medicaid expansion awaits a vote by the legislature to overturn Governor LePage’s veto.

Why is this so important? We all know that our future rests on how well we foster the health and well-being of the next generation. As advocates for children, we can tell you that covering parents is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful future for children and to strengthen families and our communities. Too often when parents lose health insurance coverage, their children do, too. And while this is a longstanding, well documented finding, it is particularly heartbreaking to watch it unfold in Maine.

In March, the Maine Children’s Alliance released a report on how children fared following the rollback of MaineCare in 2012. In sum, 28,500 working Maine parents were cut from MaineCare. While these cuts were directed at adults, our analysis shows that some children lost coverage too, even though their eligibility had not changed. Right now there are 6,000 children in Maine who are eligible for coverage but not enrolled.

This real-time experience in Maine illustrates why we need MaineCare to widen its net and offer coverage to Mainers who do not qualify for support in the Marketplace and also do not currently qualify for Medicaid. These individuals who fall in the “gap” need coverage and access to health care. It is tested and true—children are more likely to gain coverage when their parents have coverage. Further, when a parent is ill, the impact on children can be significant, particularly for those parents without insurance. The more limited someone’s access to health care, the more likely it is that preventable health problems become worse or more complex. In addition, medical bills create not only significant financial burden but psychological stress that can affect the entire family.

Preparing Maine for a strong future means our youngest citizens must get what they need today to become the adults who will strengthen our communities and build our economy tomorrow. As we reflect upon what rolling back health coverage does to our communities – loss of coverage for adults and their children – we must recognize the very important role that insurance coverage plays in keeping children, their families, and their communities healthy. It’s clear that to keep children healthy, regardless of family income, Maine must ensure parents have health coverage.

Today, we have the chance to make that happen for 70,000 Mainers.

Claire Berkowitz, Executive Director, Maine Children’s Alliance