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A New Generation of Insured Children: Will They Be Better Adults?

Heather Langone May 8, 2013

How will the changing face of insurance change the next generation as they go out into the world as adults? Will providing both preventative and long term healthcare for all children regardless of a parent’s ability to pay do more than take care of the basic flu vaccinations or treat the basic cold? Think about when you were a child. Did you take for granted that if you got sick, Mom or Dad would take you to the doctor? But for those families at the poverty level, truly at the poverty level, does skipping that eyeglass appointment or dentist appointment do more than just impact little Billy or Betty’s health? Does it affect a child’s confidence, anxiety level and attention span? And maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just part of life. But what if the impact is greater than we know. Children understand when the financial burden on the home is heavy. What would that say to a child with a less solid constitution or those whom elders referred to as a sickly child? As a child I had chronic bronchitis obviously no fault of mine or my parents. However I never worried about what those repeated appointments with respiratory specialists would do to my parents’ bank account. And what does it mean if because of a lack of preventative healthcare, a child isn’t seeing the chalkboard as well or avoiding food because of stomach aches that aren’t being treated? Do these have larger reaching affects than simply having access to amoxicyllin or the right pair of prescription glasses? One might consider the affect on a child’s self esteem and confidence. While there seem to be a myriad of studies on the impact of providing healthcare, not as much has been researched as to the sociological impact on children as they navigate their way to adulthood. Still, current studies like the one by the Baker Institute–although they say there have really been no studies on the impact on these children as adults–reveal stunning data. Vivian Ho, chair in health economics at the Baker Institute, associate professor of economics at Rice and associate professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine co-authored the report with Marah Short, senior staff researcher in health economics at the Baker Institute. They based their research on recent studies published in peer-reviewed journals to examine the evidence regarding the economic impact of failing to insure all children in the United States.

Providing health insurance to all children in America will yield substantial economic benefits. The children will receive better health care and enjoy better health, thereby improving their productivity as adults. The cost incurred by providing universal coverage to children will be offset by the increased value of additional life years and improved health-related quality of life gained from improved health care. From a societal perspective, universal coverage for children appears to be cost-saving.

It seemed an interesting perspectiove to review since as a nation we have been so all-consumed lately by the divisiveness of the Affordable Care Act. It seems that very few have taken the time to think about what impact these changes may have on a new generation who will not have that extra burden that so many disadvantaged children of past decades have had. Obviously, it is not a huge leap to assume that healthier students are likely to have more of a chance in school. But more confident, less anxiety filled students might also have a better chance. Will this lesser considered impact be Obama’s true legacy? In twenty years will several generations of  30 and 40 year olds be discussing how access to better care changed their worlds and gave them a chance? Or will it simply be, like many opponents contend, another generation expecting a hand out from the government? Consider this: think back and you decide. As a youngster, were you grateful for the person who lent a helping hand and wished and wanted to pay it forward someday or did you learn that everything would be handed to you?

Most would contend that we are better than that–again just speculation…

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