Children's Health

To survive and thrive, all children need access to comprehensive health care. Unmet health and mental health needs can result in children falling behind developmentally and having trouble catching up physically, socially and academically. Poor children and children of color have worse access to health coverage and care and as a result often start life several steps behind their wealthier and healthier White peers.

Thanks in large part to Medical Assistance (the state’s federal Medicaid program) and MinnesotaCare (a program that for 20 years has helped low-income working Minnesota families afford the cost of health care), the number of uninsured children in Minnesota today is at a historic low.

Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota is working to:

  • protect those gains, 
  • expand coverage to the remaining uninsured children, 
  • keep all children enrolled in coverage, and 
  • ensure timely access to appropriate care.

Health Care Coverage

Children with access to coverage are more likely to grow up healthy, do better in school, and be ready to contribute to the future work force.

Children with health care coverage are more likely to receive regular treatment that helps avoid costly hospitalizations and the associated consequences of delayed care. They also learn better and have higher educational attainment. In 2013, early implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare combined to cover 1.2 million (94 percent) Minnesota children. However, 72,000 (5.6 percent) of children remain uninsured.

Minnesota has long recognized the importance of covering all children and has made strides to reduce the number of uninsured children. However, the state has also reduced access to health care for certain populations. In the past, Minnesota provided coverage for immigrant children living in dire poverty regardless of their immigration status through the General Assistance Medical Care program. But, in 2003, these children were cut from that program and now can only receive coverage for select emergency conditions. In 2015, the state legislature cut $65 million from MinnesotaCare, which tripled families' out-of-pocket costs and increased monthly premiums. These increased costs will hit family budgets hard and deter families from seeking treatment when they need it.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota supports providing coverage for every child, regardless of immigration status, restoring cut funding to MinnesotaCare, expanding MinnesotaCare to reach more families struggling to make ends meet, and outreach efforts, including through Bridge to Benefits, to ensure families are enrolled in coverage for which they are eligible.

Bridge to Benefits Medical Assistance

Bridge to Benefits MinnesotaCare

Health Care Access

Obtaining health insurance is just one step toward improving health outcomes for children. 

Ensuring that all children, no matter where they live or what type of health insurance they have, are able to see a quality, culturally-competent health provider (including dental) for preventive care and developmental screenings is also critical. In addition, children must be able to maintain access to health care throughout their formative years—without gaps in coverage—to have the greatest impact on their health outcomes as adults. Passage of the Affordable Care Act and Minnesota’s expansion of Medicaid have removed some barriers to accessing care and maintaining coverage such as allowing 12-month re9certification for Medical Assistance and passive renewal options as well as implementing essential health benefits for all types of insurance to ensure access to a broad spectrum of services. However, there is still much to be done to move improve access.

Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota supports simplifying and aligning re-enrollment processes for Medical Assistance and other health insurance (public or private) options so that children aren’t inadvertently dropped from coverage and can move seamlessly from one health care program to another as family circumstances change. CDF-MN supports efforts to track and assess children’s access to immunizations, well-child visits and developmental screenings and examining scope of practice issues to ensure appropriate, culturally-competent care is available in all parts of the state. CDF-MN also supports improving dental access for children covered under public programs.