What Senator Sasse’s New Book Gets Wrong About Our Kids

I have to start by admitting that I haven’t read Senator Sasse’s new book, “The Vanishing American Adult”. I’ve only read excerpts and reviews. But from what I understand, his book suggests that what our young people need is better parenting. While I don’t disagree that parents and families have to be part of the solution, we need our government to take responsibility for its role as well.

Senator Sasse’s book suggests that learning to face challenges will build character — and while this may be true for some more privileged kids in our community, it misses the fact that so many kids are already suffering from challenges beyond the Senator’s imagination. In Nebraska in 2015, over 92,000 kids experienced food insecurity, almost 80,000 kids were living below the poverty line, over 3,500 of our kids experienced substantiated abuse or neglect and over 2,000 of our kids were homeless (see even more data here). These kids need a lot of things. More challenges isn’t one of them.

The good news is that there are existing government programs that do help these kids. SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) lifted over 8,000 Nebraska families above the poverty line. Medicaid covered over 162,000 Nebraska children who would otherwise be uninsured. But these are the very programs that Senator Sasse and others are looking to cut. Congress is poised to limit access to health care for almost a third of our state’s kids with hardly a thought about what it does to their opportunity to become successful adults.

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would cut almost a trillion dollars from state Medicaid programs. The bill allows these programs to be fundamentally altered from a program that provides health care to all lower income kids who qualify to one that puts caps on services or allows states to restructure the program in a multitude of untold ways.

A day on the farm isn’t going to turn a child without health care into a successful adult. Decades of research on Medicaid shows that it helps improve outcomes for lower income kids. Children who are eligible for Medicaid do better in school and miss fewer school days. They are also more likely to finish high school, attend college, and graduate. Kids who are eligible for Medicaid earn more as adults and experience fewer emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

We hope Senator Sasse and others will seriously consider the significant role Medicaid plays in setting kids up for success as adults as they consider fundamental changes to a program that has been helping Nebraska children and families for decades.

Aubrey Mancuso, MSW

Executive Director, Voices for Children in Nebraska

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