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IL Groups: Build Back Better Would Improve Children's Health

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021   

CHICAGO - Children's advocates in Illinois are pressing the U.S. Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act, after it passed the House last month.

They say it would improve Medicaid and CHIP, the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, by offering 12 months of continuous coverage to kids who qualify and making federal CHIP funding permanent.

Stephanie Altman, director of health-care justice and senior director of policy at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, said Illinois already has 12 months of permanent coverage. However, she added, the permanent CHIP funding, plus lower premiums on plans under the Affordable Care Act, would make a big difference for Illinois families. She said the need was spotlighted during the special COVID enrollment period.

"We had 54,000 people enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace during that time period," she said, "probably due to losing jobs and losing health insurance, and needing to go into the marketplace, but also because there was more generous premium coverage."

Altman said policies in Build Back Better, from affordable child care to extending the Child Tax Credit, would help families make sure kids' basic needs are being met. Opponents of the budget bill say it's too costly.

Build Back Better also would cover a person for 12 months after giving birth, a policy Illinois already has in place. In a new brief from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families, co-author Joan Alker, a research professor at Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy and executive director of its Center for Children and Families, said postpartum coverage for moms improves outcomes for their children as well. During the Trump years, she noted, one in 10 children nationwide experienced a gap in coverage.

"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," she said, "the Build Back Better bill would really turn that around and start moving the country in the right direction."

In Illinois, children in families of three earning up to about $69,000 a year are eligible for affordable health coverage through Medicaid and the state's CHIP program, "Illinois All Kids."

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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