In Ohio alone, 559,000 children with private insurance have received a slew of preventive benefits with no co-pays for their families thanks to the law. These services include all well-child visits — like physical exams, immunizations, hearing and vision screenings and developmental and behavioral screenings. These are real services and real children who have benefitted from receiving them free of cost to their families.
By investing in this way in children’s health care from the ground up, the law has allowed pediatricians to expand our focus on keeping youngsters out of the emergency room and in their homes, schools and at play. Nothing is more troublesome to me as a doctor than seeing a child suffer from an ailment that could have been prevented had he only been in for a well-child check-up. Now, thanks to the law’s investment in preventive care, more children can have the opportunity to take care of adverse health conditions before they become life-threatening.
And that’s not all the law’s done for our children. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s extension of insurance coverage to young adults, allowing them to remain on their parents’ plans until they turn 26, 2.5 million young adults across the country, and 81,922 in Ohio, have received coverage since the law was enacted. Especially in this still fragile economy, as young people look for not only a steady job, but one that provides benefits, this coverage extension has been a lifeline for so many families.
The Affordable Care Act has also rightly ended the unfair practice of insurance companies being able to deny care to children with pre-existing conditions, often the most vulnerable and the most dependent on health services: a child with a blood disorder, or chronic asthma, or diabetes or a form of pediatric cancer. Now, thanks to the law, all of these children are guaranteed coverage when they need it most.
I understand that the Affordable Care Act is not without critics and not without opportunities for improvement: it is not a perfect piece of legislation, and continues to be changed and strengthened through the federal regulatory process. Despite this, there are still threats taking place in Congress to defund or repeal aspects of the law, and just hours after it was first signed, lawsuits were filed arguing that the newly minted law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court heard six hours of arguments on this topic this week, and will soon decide how much of the law will be implemented.
Despite these challenges and in spite of the political posturing and wild predictions of the law’s constitutional fate that seem to dominate the airwaves these days, I wanted to take a moment to shine a light on all we’ve accomplished as a result of this law for our nation’s children. This law works for kids, period. There are ways we can make it better and ways we can be thoughtful about continued improvements. But this law has broken new ground when it comes to investing in prevention and child health, and it has offered new protections and expanded access to care for some of our most vulnerable children. As the law has its day in court, it also deserves to be celebrated.
McDavid is a pediatrician based in Cleveland, Ohio.