Children's access to care

About 25 percent of children under the age of 18 have not seen a healthcare professional in the last six months, and 2.6 percent have not seen a healthcare professional in more than two years.1   Among those who do report a doctor’s office, walk-in clinic, hospital outpatient clinic or emergency department as their usual place of care, 6.7 percent go without timely or any care despite need.2

AFT members prioritize children’s access to care.

In the words of a special educator for grades 2-3 in Park Forest, Ill., “Access to healthcare is very important for children to stay healthy and in school.”
AFT members know firsthand that healthcare access is intimately linked to the achievement gap; healthy students learn better. Furthermore, educated children lead healthier lives. Linked together across the lifespan, health and education directly and strongly influence each other. Unsurprisingly, results from a recent AFT survey on child health show that children’s access to care is among educators’ top three priorities.

Despite historic successes, we have work to do.

In 2013, a record low of 7.1 percent of children were uninsured, down from 9.3 percent in 2008.3   This historic low is due in large part to the Affordable Care Act and the success of child-friendly programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. However, health insurance does not guarantee access to high-quality care in schools.

  • Full-time staffing is essential to adequately address student health. The National Association of School Nurses reports that less than half of the nation’s schools are staffed with a full-time nurse. As children’s needs grow more diverse, complex and chronic for mental health, physical health and social service coordination, staffing must become more inclusive, folding in counselors, psychologists, social workers, behavioral therapists and more.
  • Clear, equitable funding ensures that care can be coordinated and continuous. The AFT is excited about the possibilities that arise from a recent change in federal interpretation of the Social Security Act. When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dismantled the “free care rule,” it removed a long-standing barrier to using Medicaid funding to reimburse school health services.
  • Policies that address the needs of the whole child help us re-center our narratives of children’s health, safety and well-being around long-term outcomes and best practices in public health, rather than high-stakes tests or tight budgets. The AFT is committed to advancing the promise of community schools to sustainably serve children and families.


  • 1Bloom, B., Jones, L.I. and Freeman, G. (2013, December). Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics Series 10 (258).
  • 2National Survey of Children’s Health. NSCH 2011/12. Data query from the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health website.
  • 3Alker, J. and Chester, A. (2014, November). Children’s Coverage at a Crossroads: Progress Slows. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Center for Children and Families.