Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Care Reform Legislation: What Does it Mean for Children and Families?

The new health care reform legislation, signed into law by President Obama yesterday, is sure to be discussed at next Thursday’s Urban Child Symposium; in the meantime, here’s a short overview of the law’s major effects on children and families:

*Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying health coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. For example, children suffering from asthma who don’t have insurance coverage will now be able to get coverage.
*CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), which provides public health care to lower-income children, will be expanded to reach more families (up to 133% of the federal poverty line) and protections will be in place to prevent CHIP reductions in the near future.
*Beginning in 2014, people who make up to 400% of the federal poverty line will be eligible for government subsidies for health care they purchase, with the amount based on their income.
*The law authorizes new programs for preventive health, including School-Based Health Clinics, oral health education, and substance use disorder and mental health problem prevention.
*Co-pays for many preventive services, like immunizations, will be eliminated from most health plans.
*Medicaid will cover an annual well-visit, assistance for pregnant women to quit smoking, and other preventive services.
*Young adult dependents will be eligible for coverage on their parents’ plan through age 26.
*Beginning in 2014, families who currently do not get employer-provided health care coverage will be able to purchase health care at a reasonable price from state-run “exchanges” (insurance marketplaces with built-in consumer protections designed to pool risk and provide affordable individual or small group policies).
*Individual, small group, and new Medicaid health plans will be required to include substance use disorder and mental health services in their basic packages and to treat these benefits the same as all others.

We’d like to hear from you--on this blog and at next week’s conference. Does the law do enough? Does it do too much? Which health problems will the new law address and which are not addressed? What role will the law play in the day-to-day health issues of urban children? How can new funding best be used to tackle the most pressing problems? How should legislators prioritize the different health challenges that exist in urban environments? How can advocates and citizens ensure that legislators prioritize correctly? What else can be done to address urban child health issues?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Views on Anti-Gang Legislation and Information-Sharing Between Court and Schools

House Speaker Michael Busch recently has proposed legislation to combat gang presence in Maryland schools. The bill intends to use federal funds to provide schools in all Maryland counties with gang prevention programs and to increase information-sharing between the courts and schools, allowing schools to identify better youth at risk of recruitment or involvement with gangs. Under the bill, courts are required to inform schools anytime a child is removed from the home under a Child in Need of Assistance (child abuse or neglect) proceeding or is convicted of any juvenile offense.

I recently appeared on WYPR’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast in support of the information-sharing, and here is why: from my experience directing the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Families, Children and the Courts' Truancy Court Program, I have learned time and time again how a lack of information about the child’s living situation and how the child spends out-of-school time can prevent schools from adequately serving the student. Everyone loses. I believe that schools need this kind of information in order to keep children safe and to make sure that schools are solving problems for children instead of augmenting them.

For those who have experience working with or studying youth or schools (and we have all been students at school), do you think the sharing of information is beneficial, or do the risks of stigmatization outweigh the benefits? What protections, if any, must be in place to ensure that this bill has a positive effect on the lives of children?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

CFCC to Testify on Compulsory Attendance and Corporal Punishment Bills

The legislative session is in full swing, and the CFCC is weighing in on two bills.

SB239/HB723 would raise the age of compulsory attendance in Maryland schools from 16 to 18. In an era when education is increasingly important to prepare children for their futures, this measure sends the right message, and is the right complement to our anti-truancy efforts.

CFCC also has submitted testimony on SB689, a bill that extends prohibitions on corporal punishment. We stand with an array of other groups committed to preventing violence against children.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

UB's Symposium on the Health of the Urban Child: Diagnosing Problems and Prescribing Solutions

With child health issues in the news so much lately, we thought we'd use our first substantive post to discuss CFCC’s work with urban child health. CFCC’s annual Urban Child Symposium this year is entitled  Health and the Urban Child: Diagnosing Problems and Prescribing Solutions. It takes place at the University of Baltimore School of Law on April 1st. We have an impressive roster of experts, practitioners, and policymakers who plan to discuss the unique, acute health challenges faced by urban children and to brainstorm potential solutions.

Two matters important to urban child health have made headlines in Maryland recently - disparities between suburban and urban health and the growing obesity problem. Both of these issues are on the agenda for this year’s symposium.

Disparities Between Suburban and Urban Child Health

The inspiration for making urban child health the focus of the symposium is an understanding of the exceptional health challenges that urban children face as a direct result of living in urban environments. For example, many urban children lack the basic resources necessary to stay healthy, including affordable and nutritious food, safe areas where they can exercise, and high quality medical care. At the same time, they confront problems such as poverty, lead paint poisoning, pollution, substance abuse, and violence.

Our three panels of doctors, professors, advocates, and policymakers are slated to lead discussion on how these unique features of the urban child’s environment can cause large health disparities between urban and suburban children and what we can do to help.

Obesity and Nutrition-Related Conditions

Obesity is an increasingly serious health problem for urban children, partially as a result of a lack of access to nutritious food and a lack of safe areas where children can exercise. Two speakers on our “Nutrition and Environmental Conditions” panel are going to address exactly these issues, one of whom is quoted in the nutritious food article.  Click on the links above to read recent articles from the Baltimore Sun about these issues.

CFCC would like to invite and encourage you to join the conversation to address and propose remedies for some of these daunting issues, either by registering for the symposium or commenting on this and any future posts.