Affordable Care Act repeal putting children at risk

Members of Congress announced plans this week to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a move that could have a significant, detrimental impact on health care for abused and neglected kids, youth in foster care and their birth, adoptive and foster parents, as well as state agencies and providers.

Children’s Rights is urging Congress not to repeal the ACA without a replacement that protects vital health care and services for children and families. Estimates show 4.4 million children and 7.6 million parents could lose coverage if the ACA is repealed.

The repeal poses a grave threat to child welfare services, including mental health and medical coverage for parents, a key to substance abuse prevention. Child advocates say the repeal could lead to more foster children coming back into the system after reuniting with their biological parents, if they do not have adequate services.

Parent Sherri Reynolds described firsthand in the USA Today what can happen when young adults can’t get mental health coverage. Her 20-year-old stepson, Jarvis, who bounced in and out of foster care and the juvenile justice system, suffered from mental illness and committed suicide in 2010 after he couldn’t get medical treatment. “I don’t understand why they would dismantle something which is credited for saving so many lives,” said Reynolds.

Without a viable replacement, the repeal could also end coverage for young adults aging out of foster care up to age 26, and endanger the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid coverage for children with special needs who are adopted with federally supported subsidies.

According to Kaiser, Medicaid and CHIP currently cover over 74 million low-income Americans, including children, pregnant women and parents. Medicaid covers 40 percent of all children, and 75 percent of poor children. Both programs face the possibility of severe cuts – under the repeal bill, states would be able to reduce Medicaid and CHIP eligibility for children beginning in 2017.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate took the first major step toward repealing the ACA. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for a vote expected to take place on Friday.