AUSTIN, Texas – For the first time in a decade, the number of uninsured children in the United States has gone up.
According to a new Georgetown University report, the number of uninsured kids rose by more than 275,000 in 2017, and nearly 4 million children in the U.S. now lack coverage.
Texas has the largest share of children without coverage: More than one in five uninsured kids lives in the Lone Star State.
Adriana Kohler, senior health policy associate with the group Texans Care for Children, says the report should be a wake-up call for state officials.
“This is a disturbing report for families that want kids to get eyeglasses they need to read the chalkboard at school, or mental-health care to stay healthy. This is disturbing for families who want the best for Texas kids.”
Kohler pointed to the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid as the primary reason the uninsured rate jumped a full percentage point last year, representing some 83,000 children. She said states that expanded Medicaid saw more families enroll, and added that children are far more likely to be insured if their parents can access coverage.
State officials have argued that taxpayers could be on the hook for Medicaid costs if the Affordable Care Act implodes.
Joan Alker, study co-author and executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, noted the increase in uninsured kids came during a year when the Trump administration cut the budget for publicizing affordable coverage and hiring “navigators” to help explain the enrollment process.
Alker said people also were watching a steady stream of congressional efforts to shrink programs designed to help working families, which she believes created an “unwelcome mat” effect.
“Congress was trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for much of the year; Congress was trying to cut Medicaid,” Alker recalled. “And then, Congress let funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expire Sept. 30 of that year, and it took them many months to actually get the CHIP program extended.”
Alker believes it is in the nation’s best interest long-term to build upon years of bipartisan progress in reducing the number of uninsured children.
She said when children’s health needs are met, their parents miss fewer days of work, kids are better able to learn in school and are better equipped to make positive contributions as adults.
The full report is online.
Author: Eric Galatas -Public News Service (TX)