Louisiana ranks low on many health indicators. But one area where our state has made significant gains in recent years is in providing health coverage to children.

While children in Louisiana are more likely to be poor than adults, they also are much more likely to have health insurance. This is thanks large part to Medicaid and the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP). These programs are the main reason Louisiana has a 3.2 percent uninsured rate for children, below the national historic low of 4.1 percent.  Prior to the introduction of LaCHIP,  close to 1 in 3 low-income Louisiana children lacked health coverage.

Numerous studies have shown that having health coverage improves health and reduces financial stress on families. It has long-term benefits for children, leading to better health and higher incomes as adults.

Source: Center for Children and Families, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy

But these gains are threatened by the ongoing efforts on Capitol Hill to rollback the landmark 2010 health reform law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Congress is considering a partial repeal of the law through a process known as budget reconciliation. A recent Urban Institute study found that this could strip health coverage from nearly 30 million people by 2019. Included in this number is an estimated 4 million children. Specifically:

  1. If a bill repealing the ACA (also known as Obamacare) similar to one passed by Congress last year (and vetoed by President Barack Obama) becomes law, an estimated 54,000 Louisiana children would lose coverage and the uninsured rate would jump above 7 percent. Some of the coverage loss would occur as parents no longer buy subsidized family plans through the health market exchanges. Others would lose coverage as the “welcome mat” effect goes away. As parents experience a “welcome mat” of coverage through Medicaid expansion, they are more likely to sign-up their children through Medicaid/LaCHIP as well.
  2. A repeal of the ACA would also allow Louisiana to lower eligibility level for children. Louisiana currently covers kids up to 255 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $51,000 for a family of three, and states are required by federal law to maintain that income threshold through 2019. Under repeal, Louisiana could drop eligibility to the new floor of 138 percent of the poverty level, meaning 209,000 kids would lose health coverage.
  3. The Children’s Health Insurance Program must be reauthorized by September of this year. If Congress fails to reauthorize CHIP on top of ACA repeal, 76,000 children will be left without health insurance.

Louisiana’s health care system still needs improvement, as does the Affordable Care Act. But instead of a hasty repeal, policymakers should work in a bipartisan fashion to improve the health system, while safeguarding the parts of current law that are working well. And that means protecting the important coverage gains that hundreds of thousands of Louisiana children and their families have come to depend on.