Oregon’s Children Will Lose with GOP Health Care Bill

The following was published in the Statesman Journal on June 30, 2017.


We’ve been hearing a lot about winners and losers these days. Yet, even as our kids on the baseball or soccer fields may be winning trophies, they are in imminent danger of losing something much more important.

Children in Oregon and across the country risk losing health care coverage through Medicaid, and all of the benefits that accompany it, due to the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).

The BCRA provides tens of thousands of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent richest Americans, actually raising their incomes by 2 percent.

But it cuts financial aid that families need to obtain coverage. It cuts the average federal contribution over the next seven years to 57 percent of the actual cost of Medicaid, leaving states to pick up the tab or cut eligibility and coverage.

It allows radical cuts to which health services can be covered. In short, these drastic cuts to Medicaid and health services, huge financial benefits to the wealthy, and cost-shifts to states, will result in millions of Americans, millions of children, losing coverage.

Attacking Medicaid expansion puts at risk health coverage for the more than 30 million children across the country who depend on it; children account for 43 percent of all Medicaid enrollees. In Oregon, over 400,000 children receive their health care coverage through Medicaid, and “CHIP,” the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Rural children will be disproportionately affected by cuts to Medicaid because poverty rates are higher in rural Oregon. The agriculture and small business jobs in these communities are less likely to offer insurance through employment. In fact, more than 9,000 children in Eastern Oregon’s Second Congressional District rely on Medicaid and CHIP for their coverage, which protects their families from financial risk.

Children with pre-existing conditions will suffer. Although companies can’t charge sick children more for their coverage, they can cut which health conditions they choose to cover. There will be no guarantee of mental health, dental, drug and addiction services, or even maternity care. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that maternity and mental health coverage will be dropped from many policies in many states, making them much more expensive for those who need them. The lack of accessibility of these services would disproportionally harm those least able to afford them.

Kids with severe disabilities will have fewer choices and less access to care when Medicaid is capped. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of all children with special health needs receive health insurance through Medicaid, CHIP, or public coverage. Low-income families with disabled children rely on early screening, diagnosis, and treatment. The BCRA slashes funding to pediatricians and children’s hospitals providing those services.

Finally, caps to Medicaid are a calamitous cost-shift to Oregon, which is already financially over-burdened. Make no mistake: caps are cuts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the “caps” amount to $772 billion in cuts. The BCRA passes the buck to states and risks damaging kids.

Don’t be fooled by the promises of legislators who want a “win” with this plan. In the end, when Senate Republicans cap Medicaid and end essential benefits, and leave the most vulnerable Americans to pick up the tab, Oregon’s kids lose.


Jeff Merkley is one of Oregon’s U.S. senators and Tonia Hunt is executive director of Children First for Oregon

Oregon in Bottom Half of States in Latest National Child Well-Being Rankings

PORTLAND, Ore., June 13, 2017 — Despite a strong economy, Oregon has fallen behind a majority of states in the welfare of its children, ranking 31st in overall child well-being, according to the 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community — that represent what children need most to thrive.

In education, with a ranking of 40, Oregon’s kids lag far behind. This is due to the third highest percentage of high schoolers not graduating on time in the nation and below grade level reading proficiency among nearly two-thirds of our fourth graders. Large class sizes and less time in school than other states are significant contributors to these outcomes. Pre-K attendance also was lower in Oregon than in a number of other states, as well as the national average, with 57 percent of children ages 3 and 4 not attending early learning or preschool programs.

“We must prioritize our children’s education if we don’t want to see our state fall further behind national trends,” said Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon. “The future of Oregon’s economy, civic engagement and way of life depends on the success of our next generation.”

According to the Data Book, Oregon ranks:
• 21st in the family and community domain. A steady decrease in Oregon’s teen birth rate since 2010 is a positive trend for Oregon’s families.
• 21st in health. Oregon continues to have a low rate of child and teen deaths and is below the national average for percentage of low-birthweight babies. Only 4 percent of Oregon children are not covered by health insurance.
• 30th in economic well-being. Despite low unemployment in Oregon, one in five children still lives in poverty.
• 40th in education. More than a quarter of Oregon high school students did not graduate on time in 2014-15, compared to 17 percent nationally.

“Investing in children works. For example, in 2009, Oregon lawmakers made a conscious decision to expand access to public health insurance coverage. Since then, uninsured rates have decreased. The KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that need more of that to improve education and economic outcomes for kids,” said Hunt. “Now is the time to make investments in Oregon children – not cuts.”

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book will be available June 13 at 12:01 a.m. EDT at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

New Federal Budget Proposal Jeopardizes the Future of Our Nation’s Poorest Children

Food, shelter, safety, health. We know these as “basic needs” because human survival depends on them. Everything we want children to achieve — a solid education, a successful career, a healthy family of their own — stems from meeting their most basic needs early in life.

The proposed federal budget released by the White House this week is an attack on these needs and the poorest families who rely on help from our federal government. Cuts amounting to over $150 billion over the next decade from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs would make it even harder for struggling families to put food on the table. Cuts to rental assistance and the complete elimination of low-income energy assistance programs would leave over 250,000 low-income families without stable or safe homes. Total cuts to health care amounting to $1.85 trillion over ten years would decimate Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid. Fifty percent of all people who rely on Medicaid for health care coverage are children, including over 400,000 children in Oregon who rely on Medicaid and CHIP. Over the next decade, the proposed budget will slash trillions of dollars from safety net programs and services that help to fulfill the most basic needs of our country’s most vulnerable children.

Combined with additional cuts to education, rural health, and the total elimination of job training programs, the proposed budget adds up to disaster for children now and for our country in the future. Cuts this deep will deny struggling families the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their kids.

We know that educational attainment is the surest way out of poverty. We know that coverage through Medicaid, the nation’s largest children’s health insurer, leads to lower drop-out rates and higher college graduation rates, reduced adolescent mortality, and higher lifetime wealth and income rates. We know that self-sufficiency programs like SNAP and TANF provide a necessary bridge so the neediest families receive help while they get back on their feet.

Failure to fulfill children’s basic needs early on in life comes at the expense of their futures, and the future of our country. Children need food, shelter, safety, and health — not cuts.

Harmful Immigration Enforcement Practices Threaten Children’s Well-Being

Protecting children is a core American value. From child custody cases to the child welfare system, the child’s “best interests” are key considerations in ensuring that children’s security, mental health, and emotional development are prioritized in any decision made on their behalf. However, in recent discussions of immigration policy and enforcement practices, the best interests of children are too often ignored. As Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) detains and deports more parents, it is imperative that the physical, psychological, and economic impacts of immigration enforcement practices are considered and mitigated to protect children in families of undocumented immigrants.

The detention and deportation of parents have significant consequences for children in both the short- and long-term, threatening the safety and well-being of approximately 4.1 million US citizen children living with at least one undocumented parent. In the event that a parent is detained, the most immediate physical risk for children occurs when families are separated during detention. Once arrested, many parents are transferred to an immigration center, often without the opportunity to contact their children or arrange care. A lack of coordination between family courts, the child welfare system, and detention centers, amplified by language barriers, make it difficult and sometimes impossible for parents to reunite with their children after the conclusion of their immigration case.

Unfortunately, physical separation from their parents is not the only threat that immigration enforcement practices pose to children. The psychological toll of having a parent at risk of, or experiencing, deportation has significant impacts on the emotional well-being of children. Many children with undocumented parents live in a constant state of uncertainty about their lives and their futures, experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, and severe psychological distress. According to the Children’s Partnership, pediatricians have reported increased anxiety and panic attacks among children who fear their parents may face deportation or whose parents have been detained. Having a parent detained is traumatic regardless of whether a child witnesses it or not —while many children whose parents are apprehended at home experience significant psychological trauma and symptoms of PTSD, children whose parents are arrested when the child is not present often struggle with confusion and stress. As we know, trauma has far-reaching implications for children’s emotional and behavioral development, leading to adverse outcomes ranging from higher dropout rates to increased risk of chronic health conditions.

In addition to separation from their parents and psychological stress, children of undocumented parents are more likely to experience increased economic hardship. The loss of a detained or deported primary caregiver has a significant financial impact on families. In addition to the loss of income, many families struggle to cover the cost of hiring lawyers and paying immigration bonds. Ultimately, these financial burdens lead to an increased risk of housing instability and food insecurity.

As immigration enforcement activities increase and more parents face detention and deportation, the quality of life of children in immigrant families is a primary concern. According to a 2007 study by the Urban Institute, for every two adults apprehended or deported in a raid by ICE, one citizen child is directly impacted. For these children, it is imperative that the enforcement of immigration policies does not compromise their safety and well-being. Experiencing separation from parents, psychological trauma, and economic instability are not in any child’s best interests. We all want children to feel safe, happy, and economically secure, and federal immigration policies and practices must support these values.

Cultivating Community to Prevent Child Abuse in Linn & Benton Counties

Can we all make a difference in supporting families?

Can communities rally to keep kids safe?

In Linn and Benton counties, the answer to these questions is a resounding “Yes!”

Aoife Magee, Ph.D., who leads the Parenting Education Department at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC), is an instrumental leader in preventing child abuse in her community. With Magee’s expanded vision, existing prevention programs at LBCC go beyond working with the families themselves to include the broader community with a series of educational workshops about child development, family resources and prevention strategies. These upcoming workshops will be open to the public, including teachers, nurses, librarians, coaches, neighbors, case managers, and public health professionals. By enabling parents and practitioners to work together in learning the same skills, LBCC hopes to combat isolation and its negative impact on children.

Magee knows about the challenges of parenting not only as a professional in the field, but as a parent herself.  Seventeen years ago, Magee attended her first parenting classes, and she continues to rely on the friendships and resources she gained as she parents her now-teenage son. This experience bolstered Aoife’s belief that every adult in a child’s life needs support.

Magee has many big ideas about how Oregon can be a safer and more supportive place for families — and those big ideas are already yielding results. Linn and Benton counties have made significant progress in preventing child abuse over the last three years. A strategic focus on building community and preventing social isolation of parents in Linn and Benton counties is working!

The Parenting Education Department of Linn-Benton Community College is supported by the Children’s Trust Fund of Oregon, a partner of Children First for Oregon, in reducing child abuse and strengthening families in our state.