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Why “Well-Baby” Visits Are So Important, & How They’re Threatened By The ACA Repeal

Since its implementation, the Affordable Care Act has given millions of parents broader access to necessary medical care for them and their kids. That includes important preventive pediatric services like well-baby check-ups. Under the landmark law, private insurance plans must cover preventive health screenings and routine physical exams for your baby with no out-of-pocket cost. But, this week, Republican lawmakers took their first steps in revoking outgoing President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation. So how would the ACA repeal threaten crucial "well-baby" visits?

Those preventive check-ups will once again be expensive to obtain. Overturning the mandate means that insurance providers will have the opportunity to start charging co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance on care as simple as hearing and vision screenings for your newborn. And it's exactly those costs that kept both uninsured and insured Americans from using preventing services, according to a 2015 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Without preventive care, infants and toddlers become more susceptible to illnesses that can develop into serious conditions without treatment. That means frequent trips to the emergency room, which could have been avoided if the preventive service was still available. That, in turn, jeopardizes a family's financial security and ability to maintain their health.

Why are well baby visits so important? They improve the health and well-being of infants and children, and allow doctors to identify and treat any health issues before they become life-threatening. Under Section 2713 of the ACA, private plans must cover, with no cost-sharing, routine immunizations and physical exams; behavioral and developmental assessments; iron and fluoride tests and supplements; vision, hearing and dental screenings; and screenings for lead poisoning, autism, tuberculosis, and certain genetic diseases, among other issues. ("Grandfathered" plans — insurance policies in effect before March 23, 2010 — are not required to provide free preventive services.) The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 10 well-baby visits between infancy and 24 months, starting with three to five days after birth.

Well-baby visits also give parents a chance to address concerns about their child's health. They can ask their doctor to exam that cough that just won't go away or that rash that pops up every once and a while on their baby's back. Well-baby visits are an opportunity to stay on top of an infant's health so their immune systems are strong and their medical needs are met before it's too late.

Research has proven that preventive services save lives (and money, though of course that is far less important). Imagine, then, if the ACA is repealed and insurance companies decide to reinstate co-pays and deductibles on preventive care like well-baby visits. That means a parent who can't afford routine doctor visits will scale back the care they obtain unless absolutely necessary, just like before the ACA went into effect. And that means kids will become sicker and sicker. Where's the justice in that?