”Health care for young children pays large social dividends”

Tuesday, Apr 25, 2017
by Simon M. Sommer

Economist Janet Currie explains why health insurance for children leads to better outcomes in adulthood.

Simon M. Sommer: The debate about repealing Obamacare has attracted worldwide attention. What will happen to the U.S. economy if large segments of the population, especially children, lose access to affordable health care?

Janet Currie: Actually the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) mainly expanded health insurance for adults. Children had already been covered under a series of expansions of the Medicaid program that began back in the late 1980s. Most people do not know that 45% of births in the United States were paid for by public health insurance even before the ACA. New research has shown that these cohorts of children are healthier than slightly older children who were ineligible for Medicaid coverage. Not only that, they are less likely to be disabled, more likely to have gone to college, and have higher earnings. Hence, health care for young children pays large social dividends in terms of producing healthier and more productive adults.

The bill that was recently discussed in the U.S. Congress would not only have repealed Obamacare. It would also have threatened the older expansions of the Medicaid program by dismantling the federal program and giving “block grants” to the states to use to cover people as they chose.

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