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Cerebral Palsy & The Affordable Care Act

We can expect the debate regarding “Obamacare” to rage for many months (likely years) ahead. The technological trouble with the program’s roll out has offered an opportunity for those opposed to the substance of the legislation to re-iterate their attack and voice concern about the consequences of the law. Considering that it is such a politically volatile issue, the Act will undoubtedly be dredged up in next year’s Congressional elections as well as the 2016 election to replace President Obama.

As a result, it is important to pay close attention to the arguments made to separate fact from fiction.

Many claims are made about how the law will impact medical care for birth-related issues and injuries. Take, for example, claims about how the law will affect families with children who suffered birth injuries–like cerebral palsy.

The Facts
One of the leading opponents of the law, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, recently claimed that “families of special needs children will face a new penalty for using savings” to provide medical care to their injured child. Is this true?

According to a story in the Huffington Post which fact-checked Cruz’s statement, the Senator’s comments are misleading. Cruz’s claim stems from a component of the new law which caps tax-free contributions to accounts which can only be used specifically for medical care. The cap is at $2,500. More money can be added to those accounts, but they will now be taxed like regular income. Some families that have children with special needs use these accounts to pay for various expenses for their child.

For one thing, one of the nation’s leading advocacy groups for these children issues a statement stating that they have not seen any evidence that Obamacare’s change in this tax rule would have any meaningful impact on families.

In addition, those making statements like Senator Cruz almost always ignore the components of the healthcare law that may drastically improve care for pregnant mothers or children who suffer a birth injury. For example, officials from the March of Dimes–a leading organization for children with disabilities–have stated their hope that the Affordable Care Act may lead to healthier babies.

The hope is that the overall expansion of available healthcare services will spur more women to have appropriate prenatal care. This is accomplished, in part, by provisions in the new law which do not allow health insurance rates to be denied by considering pregnancy as “preexisting condition.”

Advocates will be watching premature birth rates as the healthcare law is rolled out to see if that indicator drops–a sign of increased prenatal care. Fewer premature births will undoubtedly lead to children born with fewer injuries.

Another organization known as United Cerebral Palsy issued a statement on Obamacare, pointing out the many provisions of the law which may improve the care provided to children with cerebral palsy. On top of the preexisting condition issue already mentioned, this include eliminating lifetime “caps” on insurance coverage, expanded Medicaid eligibility, and more.

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