Almost all Arkansas children have health care coverage - but many of their parents don’t, especially in low-income, working families. If those parents can get insurance, it could help their children’s health, too, says Anna Strong, director of health care policy at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. Strong points out that the state is justifiably proud of the way ARKids First has covered nearly 80 percent of children who were uninsured. But she says it’s important to cover the adults, because healthy parents are better parents.
"We want parents to be able to focus on their kids," she stresses. "And if you have chronic headaches, or unmanaged diabetes, or you know, a mental health condition, you have a parent who’s sick and may not be able to be as engaged in the child’s life."
Strong says about 80,000 Arkansas parents qualify for low cost care through the state’s private option insurance. And they can learn more about it online, at arhealthconnector.org.
Some critics maintain the government has no business subsidizing health care for working adults, no matter their income level. But Strong argues that if the program only covers children, many will still go without care. She says providing health insurance for their parents causes what’s called the welcome mat effect - it makes parents aware of what’s available for their children. As a result of state outreach, Strong says nearly 74,000 low-income folks have applied for Arkansas’s private option health insurance.
"But in addition to that," she says, "we’ve seen more than 3,000 children have enrolled in ARKids First immediately - which proves exactly what the national research has been telling us - getting parents coverage gets kids coverage as well."
Strong points out families manage to stay healthier if they can all go to the doctor when they need to, especially if it’s the same provider.
"My parents, my grandparents and my sister and I all went to the same family practice doctor," she recalls. "They can give better care when the entire family is being treated."