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Children's advocates say Build Back Better is crucial for Utah kids' health

A doctor helps a child.
Adobe Stock
The Build Back Better Act contains provisions that would bolster coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) and Medicaid.

Health-care reform advocates in Utah are pressing the U.S. Senate to approve the Build Back Better Act.

They say it would improve Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The bill has already passed in the House.

It would offer 12 months of continuous coverage to children who qualify for Medicaid. It also would require states to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months for new mothers.

Jessie Mandle, deputy director of Voices for Utah Children, said the bill would "smooth out the bumps" Utah families have faced in getting their kids insured.

"It will help reverse the trends that we've seen, in terms of kids losing insurance over the last few years," Mandle asserted. "It really will just absolutely change the trajectory for children's health insurance in our state, and give kids the coverage and care they need to thrive."

According to Utah CHIP officials, families of four earning $53,000 a year or less are eligible for affordable health coverage through the program. Opponents of the Build Back Better Act say the almost $2 trillion price tag is too costly.

Mandle pointed out Build Back Better would permanently fund CHIP, so it would not have to be renewed in Congress every few years. It also would make it easier for Utah and other states to expand eligibility.

"Disruptions in coverage impact kids' overall health outcomes," Mandle explained. "Having the 12 months continuous eligibility provision in Build Back Better would really be a dramatic change for kids here in Utah."

Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families and the report's co-author, found during the early Trump administration years, one in 10 children experienced a break in insurance coverage over the course of a year.

"These gaps in coverage were more common for Latino children and Black children, and 50% of children who had a gap in coverage did not see a doctor for the entire year that we looked at," Alker reported.

As of May 2021, Utah had enrolled a total of 415,000 individuals in Medicaid and CHIP, a net increase of 41% since 2013.