Budget Hearing Testimony of Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, before the Committee on Health

DC Action Budget Hearing Testimony Banner Image
March 30, 2023
Testimony
Person Testifying: Kimberly Perry
Title: Executive Director, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: DC Council Committee on Health
Type of Hearing: Budget Hearing
Topic of Testimony: Budget Oversight Hearing on the DC Health Benefit Exchange

Good morning, Chair Henderson and members of the Committee on Health. I’m Kim Perry, executive director of DC Action. DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Our collaborative advocacy campaigns bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change. DC Action is the home of DC Kids Count, Under 3 DC, DC Out-of-School Time Coalition, the DC Home Visiting Council and the Youth Economic Justice and Housing Coalition.

As one of the co-chairs of the Under 3 DC coalition, I’m here today to request that all funds allocated to the DC Health Benefit Exchange for the purpose of full implementation of HealthCare4ChildCare and any related communications, outreach, and marketing remain steady in their budget, and if at all possible allocate sufficient dollars in all four years of the financial plan.

HealthCare4ChildCare, funded through the Pay Equity Fund that the DC Council established in 2021, is one the first and only programs in the country making free or low cost health, dental and vision benefits available to employees of early childhood education programs.

Before HealthCare4ChildCare, very few early learning programs in the District were in a financial position to offer health insurance to their employees. Often margins are too thin to afford premiums, and historically employee wages have been too low to participate in any cost-sharing. But, the Pay Equity Fund is changing all of that. The more than $18 million dollars provided to the Health Benefit Exchange through a memorandum of understanding with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), who administers the Pay Equity Fund, is of great value and is already making a significant impact on the lives of employees in the early learning sector and their families.

Once the dollars were made available to the Health Benefit exchange, Director Mila Koffman and her team immediately deployed resources to gather data and conduct in depth interviews with early learning programs to gain a full understanding of their current health care offerings. And, in a short period of time, they took what they learned and created HealthCare4ChildCare, a product uniquely designed to meet the health needs of the early learning sector. I admire the persistence and tenacity of Director Koffman and her entire team to solicit ongoing feedback about the benefit package and engage the early learning community in outreach and marketing of the program now that it is up and running. The result is more than 61 employers now enrolled in the program, covering 557 employees and 99 dependents. And, with the outreach plans they have in place, no doubt enrollment will grow over the remainder of this year.

But, one of the barriers to participation is the perception that HealthCare4ChildCare doesn’t have steady, multi-year funding. So, we ask the Committee to ensure that funding for HealthCare4ChildCare is included in the FY24 budget and well beyond. Our coalition supports including funding for the program in all four years of the financial plan. Again, health insurance is a valued aspect of compensation for any employee. HealthCare4ChildCare is already having a deeply moving impact on the early learning workforce. Along with higher salaries, it allows employees to stay in their jobs, sufficiently support their own families, and at the same time focus on the critical important work they have dedicated their lives to…educating and caring for our littlest residents.

Thank you. I look forward to answering any questions you might have.