Children’s health insurance: a moral obligation?

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, almost 8 million children, or 10 percent of all U.S. children, have no health insurance. For years, both political parties have hotly debated how best to provide coverage for as many American children as possible. This debate finally came to a head in 2010 with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act will have an impact on providing health coverage for American children, according to an analysis by Genevieve M. Kenney and Jennifer E. Pelletier of the Urban Institute. They include:

  • An expansion of Medicaid to cover all children with incomes under 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL).
  • Expansion of CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) through at least 2015 and an increase of the federal matching rate for participating states.
  • Health insurance exchanges designed to increase access to lower cost coverage that will be required to cover basic pediatric services.
  • An individual mandate that compels coverage for all Americans.
  • Private insurers will no longer be able to set lifetime limits on benefits nor deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.


Why it matters

Helping the uninsured gain access to health care is a moral obligation for society, according to religious leaders of all faiths. On the secular level, the monetary costs to society are staggering. A 2008 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that uninsured Americans would likely spend $30 billion out-of-pocket for health care in 2008 while receiving $56 billion in uncompensated care, three quarters of which would be from government sources.


  • “Statement of Robert Greenstein, President, on Census’ 2011 Poverty, Income, and Health Insurance Data”

    Sept. 12, 2012, analysis by the Center on Budget and Public Policies which says that the number of uninsured Americans fell in 2011 by the largest margin since 1999, in part due to early implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The analysis foretells of further decreases once the Affordable Care Act is completely implemented in 2014.

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program

    The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford private coverage. Their website provides information on CHIP enrollment and design by state as well as enrollment trends.


    KIDS COUNT is a highly respected source for data on child and family well-being in the United States. A project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT provides state-by-state analysis of childhood well-being based on numerous indicators including economic well-being, education, family situation and health.

  • provides information about Medicaid and CHIP services for families who need health insurance coverage. These programs are designed to be affordable for families who are not able to afford health insurance coverage in the private market or do not have coverage available to them.

    Contact: 877-543-7669.
  • Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

    The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation which focuses on the major health care issues facing the U.S., as well as the U.S. role in global health policy. Kaiser develops and runs its own research, journalism and communications programs, sometimes in partnership with other non-profit research organizations or major media companies. Contact vice president of communications Rakesh Singh.

    The Foundation has statistics on the percentage of uninsured children 18 and younger broken down by state and provider.


  • offers a collection of polls on Americans’ opinions on politics and religion.

    They aggregate polls on health policy in America.

  • Gallup

    Gallup provides polling and analysis on dozens of pressing topics in the United States, many of which involve religion.

    For years, Gallup has conducted numerous polls on the health care system in America.

Articles and publications

National sources


  • Gary Gunderson

    Gary Gunderson is a professor of faith and health of the public at Wake Forest University as well as the vice president of faith and health ministries at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, N.C. He is an ordained American Baptist minister and the author of several books on faith and health including Religion and the Health of the Public: Changing the Paradigm (Palgrave-McMcillian, 2011).

  • Sandra L. Thurman

    Sandra L. Thurman is the director of the Interfaith Health Program (IHP) and the president of the International AIDS Trust at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, Ga.

  • Alexandra E. Shields

    Alexandra E. Shields is the director of the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities.

    She has a master’s degree in systematic theology from Boston College and has extensive experience working on issues involving the uninsured.

  • John DiIulio Jr.

    John DiIulio Jr. is a professor of politics, religion and civil society at the University of Pennsylvania and was the first director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. A frequent speaker and writer on faith-based social services, he is co-editor of What’s God Got to Do With the American Experiment? (Brookings, 2000).

    He has been in favor of expanding CHIP “for compassion’s sake.”

    Contact: 215-898-7641.

Think tanks

  • Diane Rowland

    Diane Rowland is a nationally recognized health policy expert and the executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. In 2009, Rowland was appointed as the inaugural chair of the congressionally-authorized Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) established to advise Congress on issues related to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

    Contact: 202-347-5270.
  • Karen Davenport

    Karen Davenport is the director of health policy at the National Women’s Law Center. She has focused her career on advocacy, research and public policy development dedicated to improving Americans’ access to health care. Contact Maria Patrick or Rachel Perrone.

    As a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, she developed and managed national programs to expand health insurance coverage for children.

  • Robert E. Moffit

    Robert E. Moffit is a senior fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Policy Innovation. Previously, Moffit directed The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies and specializes in health care and entitlement programs, especially Medicare. Interview requests are processed through his page on The Heritage Foundation’s website.

    He has historically been opposed to expanding government health coverage, including for children.

    Contact: 202-675-1761.

Advocacy/research organizations

  • Commonwealth Fund

    The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children and elderly adults. Contact Mary Mahon or Bethanne Fox.

  • Karen Davis

    Karen Davis is the Eugene and Mildred Lipitz Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and director of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at Johns Hopkins University. She previously served as president of The Commonwealth Fund.

  • Children’s Defense Fund

    The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a non-profit child advocacy organization that champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education and a moral and spiritual foundation. The CDF often works closely with faith-based organizations to reach their goals.

    They have a section on children’s health.


  • Abigail Rian Evans

    Abigail Rian Evans is an adjunct professor of family medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She wrote Redeeming Marketplace Medicine: A Theology of Health Care.

  • Carol Keehan

    Sister Carol Keehan is president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association, which has worked to improve children’s health care coverage through a partnership with the Campaign for Children’s Health Care. Contact Fred Caesar.

  • Linda Hanna Walling

    The Rev. Linda Hanna Walling is the founding executive director of Faithful Reform in Health Care, which looks to build a more collaborative infrastructure among the various faith groups working for health care reform.

    Contact: 888-863-8910.
  • Russell Moore

    Russell Moore is director of the Public Theology Project at Christianity Today.

  • John Baumann

    The Rev. John Baumann is a Jesuit priest and founding director of the PICO National Network, a national network of faith-based community organizations working to create innovative solutions to problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities.

    He has historically supported expansions to government-sponsored health care for children.

  • Eileen Lindner

    The Rev. Eileen Lindner is deputy general secretary for research and planning of the National Council of Churches and senior pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly in Tenafly, N.J. Previously, she served as the director of the NCC’s Child Advocacy Office. She has written numerous books and articles on a variety of child advocacy subjects.

    She also previously served as chairwoman of the national interfaith advisory board for Cover the Uninsured Week, a nonpartisan campaign to focus attention on the need for health coverage for all Americans that operated from 2003-2011.

  • Richard Land

    Richard Land is president of the nondenominational Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and previously served for 25 years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

    He was a member of the national interfaith advisory board for Cover the Uninsured Week. He has said that the nation’s children should receive the health care they need and has supported an expansion of government-sponsored health care for children.

  • Miriam Burnett

    The Rev. Miriam Burnett is medical director of the Connectional Health Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and pastor of New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Willow Grove, Pa.

    She has called health coverage for children necessary for public health.

  • Bill Calhoun

    The Rev. Bill Calhoun is a parish associate at Wellshire Presbyterian Church in Denver.

    He has advocated for health care reform including the expansion of government-sponsored health care for children.

  • Derrick Harkins

    The Rev. Derrick Harkins is the national director of interfaith outreach for the Democratic National Committee. He also serves as senior vice president for innovations in public programming at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

    He has advocated for the expansion of government-sponsored health care for children.

  • David Saperstein

    David Saperstein is an American rabbi, lawyer, and Jewish community leader who served as United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom from 2015 – 2017. He previously served as the director and chief legal counsel at the Union for Reform Judaism‘s Religious Action Center for more than 40 years and as a Commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  He Is one of the founders of the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network. The network seeks to build mutual trust and respect among faith leaders through civic engagement, authentic relationships, and honest dialogue leading to resilient, compassionate, and flourishing communities.

    He has participated in discussions with lawmakers about the expansion of government-sponsored health care for children.

  • Sayyid M. Syeed

    Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed is National Director for Interfaith and Community Alliances at the Islamic Society of North America.

    He has said that it is a religious obligation to provide children with appropriate health care, and he was a member of the national interfaith advisory board for Cover the Uninsured Week.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • David Cutler

    David Cutler is an economics professor at Harvard University. He wrote the book Your Money or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America’s Healthcare System, which looks at issues involving access to health care.

  • Jonathan Gruber

    Jonathan Gruber is an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. He advised the Obama campaign in 2008 about health care, and The Washington Post has called him the Democratic Party’s most influential health care expert. He has testified before the Senate Finance Committee about financing health care reform.

  • Jacob S. Hacker

    Jacob S. Hacker is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University and a Resident Fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He edited Health at Risk: America’s Ailing Health System – and How to Heal It.

  • Stuart Altman

    Stuart Altman is the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He is an economist whose research interests are primarily in federal and state health policy.

  • James R. Tallon Jr.

    James R. Tallon Jr. is the chairman of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and president of the United Hospital Fund of New York, the nation’s oldest federated charity. The Fund addresses critical issues affecting hospitals and health care in New York City through health services research and policy analysis, education and information activities, and grantmaking. He is also the chairman of the board of The Commonwealth Fund and secretary/treasurer of the Alliance for Health Reform.

  • Mark Pauly

    Mark Pauly is the Bendheim Professor of health care management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He is an expert on medical economics, health policy and health insurance.

  • Edmund Pellegrino

    Dr. Edmund Pellegrino is a professor emeritus of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. He served as director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics (1983-89) and the Center for Clinical Bioethics at the medical center (1991-96). He previously chaired of the President’s Council on Bioethics. The author of more than 500 publications, he is best-known for his discussions of Christian virtue and medical ethics in the treatment of patients, humanism and the physician, and the philosophical basis of medical treatment. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

    He wrote the section “The Good Samaritan in the Marketplace: Managed Care’s Challenge to Christian Charity” for the book The Changing Face of Health Care: A Christian Appraisal of Managed Care, Resource Allocation and Patient-Caregiver Relationships (Eerdmans, 1998).

    • Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin

      Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin is the 18th Surgeon General of the United States.

      She previously served as a member of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

      Contact: 202-205-0143.

    In the South

    • William Custer

      William Custer is an associate professor at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business in Atlanta. He is an expert in employee benefits, health care financing and health insurance.

    • Ken Thorpe

      Ken Thorpe is Robert W. Woodruff professor and chair of the health policy and management department at Emory University in Atlanta. He is an expert in health care financing, insurance and health care reform.

    • Nicole Ravenell Edwards

      Nicole Ravenell Edwards is president and CEO for the Southern Institute on Children and Families, based in South Carolina but with affiliates throughout the South. The institute is a nonprofit organization that works with business leaders to try to improve children’s quality of life, including access to health care. Ravenell is a public policy expert.

      Contact: 803-779-2607.
    • Larry Churchill

      Larry Churchill is a professor of medical ethics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a professor at the graduate department of religion at the Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn. An expert on the justice and allocation of health care resources, he wrote Self-Interest and Universal Health Care: Why Well-Insured Americans Should Support Coverage for Everyone.

    In the Midwest

    • Catherine McLaughlin

      Catherine McLaughlin directed the Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The six-year-long initiative conducted research on health insurance coverage. McLaughlin is an expert on health care economics.

    • Timothy McBride

      Timothy McBride is a professor and associate dean for public health at George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. He focuses his research on Medicare reform, the uninsured and insurance markets, rural health and long-term care.

    In the West

    • Winston E. Gooden

      Winston E. Gooden is the dean of the School of Psychology at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., as well as a professor in the school.

      He wrote the article “A Critical Partner of Managed Care” for the Journal of Psychology and Christianity.

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