We have 40 million people in our child support caseload, including about 24 million adults. A third of the people in our caseload have incomes below the federal poverty level. According to a recent Urban Institute analysis of Census data (now on the OCSE website), our program served nearly 80 percent of poor custodial families in 2009. The Affordable Care Act will help make health care coverage more affordable and accessible for the people in our caseload. While obtaining medical support for children remains an ongoing responsibility, your child support office also can refer parents—both mothers and fathers—to the Health Insurance Marketplace.
States have new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage to include adults without children living at home who have incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (about $15,000 for an individual). Community health centers have more funding than before. When I was a young mother, I didn’t have health insurance. We went to a public health center for my kids’ check-ups. My first son was born three months prematurely. We were still paying $10 per month toward that hospital bill when my second son had emergency surgery. I applied for Medicaid. I will always remember how I felt when my caseworker said, “We can take care of it. We can cover the bill. Don’t worry.”
Low-income noncustodial parents have an opportunity for the first time to get their own health needs covered. Think of that! Think of our ability to make a difference for the parents and children in our caseload. I will never forget a noncustodial parent employment program that I visited 20 years ago—the men couldn’t pay child support because they couldn’t get jobs. They couldn’t get jobs because they did not have front teeth.
Access to health coverage will help reduce racial, income, and gender disparities among the people in our caseload. Of the 6.8 million uninsured African-Americans in this country who are eligible for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, 56 percent are men. Of the 10.2 million uninsured Latinos in this country who are eligible for coverage through the Marketplace, 55 percent are men.
Now is the time to focus on outreach, information, and referrals for the parents and children in your caseload. Open enrollment begins October 1, with coverage beginning January 1 in this first year of implementation.
Later this fall, consumers can learn about and enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov. HHS has launched a 24-hours-a-day consumer call center that is ready to answer questions in 150 languages. More than 1,200 community health centers across the country are preparing to help enroll uninsured Americans in coverage, and a partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services will help trusted local libraries be a resource for consumers who want information on their options.
In addition, HHS has begun training other individuals who will be providing in-person assistance, such as agents and brokers and certified application counselors. Health care navigators will serve as an in-person resource for Americans who want additional assistance in shopping for and enrolling in plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace beginning this fall. Navigators are trained to provide unbiased information in a culturally competent manner to consumers about health insurance, the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, qualified health plans, and public programs including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. More than 100 national organizations and businesses have volunteered to help Americans learn about the health care coverage available in the Marketplace.
Plug in, and help the uninsured parents in our caseload get access to health care coverage. Our Health Care Connections fact sheets on the OCSE website can help point you in the right direction.