Back-to-School List: Ruler, Pencils, Health Insurance

A new semester is about to start, and if you have kids, you’ve probably built a back-to-school checklist. New backpack? Got it. Pencils? Done. Apple for the teacher? Check. But isn’t there something you’re forgetting? Health insurance. Kids share more than snacks at school, and comprehensive family health insurance gives families peace of mind after a classroom cold, playground fall, or other medical need.

America’s Uninsured Kids

Nationwide, 5 million children lack health insurance. And while coverage rates vary by state, more than 10 percent of kids in states like Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, and Utah will return to school without health insurance.

Why, six years into the Affordable Care Act, are so many kids uninsured?

  • While many Americans receive employer-sponsored coverage, not all do. Additionally, some employer-sponsored plans don’t automatically cover family members or the employee can’t bear the additional cost.
  • Many families in states that didn’t expand Medicaid remain ineligible for public coverage. These individuals are caught in a coverage gap. They earn too much to qualify for public benefits, but they’re also unable to afford private plans.

For parents with uninsured kids, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) might be the perfect solutions for a healthy school year. These programs provide financial assistance to low- to moderate-income families, but just 49 percent of parents with uninsured children are aware their families qualify for benefits.

Students Need Grade-A Coverage

Why is it important to include health insurance in every back-to-school list?

  1. Playground injuries happen. Up to 25 percent of a child’s injuries occur while they’re in school. Cuts, bruises, or concussions are common, and playground bumps account for about 200,000 emergency room visits annually for children under 14. Health coverage ensures that a broken arm during soccer practice doesn’t break the family’s finances, too.
  1. School is a petri dish. If a child gets strep throat or pinkeye, avoiding a doctor visit because of cost puts the child’s well-being and academic potential at risk. It’s understandably difficult for parents who have to make this tough choice. The stress, both financially and emotionally, associated with having an uninsured child takes its toll. Compared to peers, 83 percentof uninsured parents worry more about their children’s health.
  1. Attendance is mandatory. Good health ensures children are present and attentive in their classes. Regular attendance is necessary for strong school performance, and studieshave confirmed that a student’s attendance record improves as insurance coverage does. And 80 percentof superintendents interviewed for a study in the Journal of School Health cited health insurance as a factor in improving students’ attention and concentration.

Put simply, children can’t learn if they’re not in good health. That’s why providing proper healthcare — dental visits, preventative exams, emergency room visits if needed — is paramount to students’ classroom success.

Medicaid and CHIP for Children’s Health

Medicaid and CHIP deliver comprehensive coverage — including routine checkups, emergency services, prescription discounts, preventative visits, and dental care — to about 4 in 10 American children. Many services, such as preventative visits and dental cleanings, come at no additional cost under CHIP, but copayments are sometimes required for other services. To ensure your son or daughter returns to school with affordable healthcare, get screened today for CHIP and Medicaid. With school just around the corner, affordable healthcare could be your child’s key to a happy, healthy, and productive year.

Benjamin Geyerhahn is founder and CEO of BeneStream. A recognized leader at the convergence of health care and social impact business, Ben is also a member of the Advisory Board of Maxwell Health and a contributor to Forbes and Skoll World Forum.