COLUMBUS, Ohio — Health advocates are pressing the U.S. Senate to approve the Build Back Better Act, because it would improve Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
The bill already has won House approval. It would offer 12 months of continuous coverage to children who qualify for Medicaid.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families, co-authored a new brief, which showed during the early Trump years, one in ten children experienced a gap in coverage over the course of 12 months.
"After we saw this troubling reverse in the progress we'd made as a country in reducing the number of uninsured kids — which came to a halt in 2017 and started going in the wrong direction — the Build Back Better bill would really turn that around and start moving the country in the right direction," Alker asserted.
Ohio's rate of children without health insurance rose a percentage point between 2016 and 2019 to 4.8%. Opponents say the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act is too costly. The bill would also permanently fund CHIP, so it would not have to be renewed every few years.
In Ohio, children in families of three earning about $46,000 dollars a year or less are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP coverage.
Kelly Vyzral, senior health policy associate for the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio, explained the Build Back Better Act would streamline the application process by permanently extending Express Lane Eligibility, which allows states to use information from other public-assistance programs.
"If someone was to apply for SNAP, they have to go to one site. If they want to apply for WIC, they go to another site. If they want Medicaid, they have to go to a different site," Vyzral outlined. "So just combing all of those things together just makes it easier for families to access those programs."
Ohio recently extended postpartum care to 12 months, and it would become permanent should Build Back Better become law. Vyzral added it also would take a team-based approach to maternal health.
"It provides resources and those connections to health care for pregnant women," Vyzral pointed out. "And it brings into the picture community workers, doulas, behavioral-health specialists, social workers and other people that that helped that mother feel comfortable, feel protected, feel taken care of."
The latest data show 938 Ohio infants died before their first birthday in 2018, a rate of nearly 7%.