A bill introduced Feb. 11 would provide health insurance for children, mostly undocumented minors who do not qualify for Medicaid or other insurance programs.
The Cover All Delaware Children Act, sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith, D-Faifax, would direct the Department of Health and Social Services to develop and operate a medical coverage program for children in Delaware who are not otherwise covered, including children who are not documented.
Officials said there are about 5,000 undocumented children in Delaware. Many have parents who do not benefit from employer-based health insurance or who are barred from enrolling in federally funded health coverage programs Medicaid and CHIP. These children also do not have health coverage through the state exchanges provided by the Affordable Care Act, officials said.
As a result, officials said, delayed care and care in emergency rooms are not uncommon. One study showed that uninsured immigrant children had 6.5 times higher odds of delayed care compared with insured immigrant children.
Under House Bill 317, a child resident in Delaware whose family income is low enough that they would qualify on that basis for Medicaid or CHIP coverage, but who is not eligible for Medicaid or other federally funded coverage, would be eligible for coverage and medical care under the state-run program.
“Many of us take health insurance and its lifesaving benefits for granted, but for thousands of Delaware children, there is no viable option for them to get covered. A simple trip to the doctor for an illness or to get vaccinated is not a financially viable option,” Griffith said.
Eight states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) and Washington, D.C., currently provide health coverage to undocumented children.
Providing publicly funded healthcare coverage to low-income children greatly improves their health and long-term outcomes, officials said. Medicaid coverage is linked to fewer chronic conditions, better overall health, improved oral health, and fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits in adulthood. Most importantly, Medicaid is associated with lower mortality and longer lives, officials said.
“The children that would benefit most from this program are a small population. And, adding this coverage for our undocumented children pays for itself with increased rates of high school graduation, on-time high school graduation, college enrollment, and four-year college graduation,” said Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram.
If passed by the General Assembly and signed into law, the measure would take effect Jan. 1, 2023.
HB 317 awaits action in the House Health & Human Development Committee.