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A Slowdown in Connecting More Kids with Health Coverage

GRAPH: Slightly more than 7 percent of U.S. children lacked health coverage last year, almost the same percentage as the year before. Graph courtesy of Georgetown Center for Children and Families.
GRAPH: Slightly more than 7 percent of U.S. children lacked health coverage last year, almost the same percentage as the year before. Graph courtesy of Georgetown Center for Children and Families.
November 6, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Efforts to connect more children to health care seem to have stalled across the country, according to a new report from the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University in Washington

Joan Alker, the Center's executive director and the author of the report, says although more children had been gaining health insurance every year, more than 5 million are still uninsured.

And Alker says in many states, progress appears to have slowed, possibly because states have focused on signing up more adults through the Affordable Care Act.

"The other interesting finding this year is that children in working families living on the brink of poverty are those that have the highest rate of uninsurance, compared to other income groups," she says.

The report says almost 5.5 percent of West Virginia children have no health insurance coverage, while slightly more than 7 percent of children remain uninsured nationally, very close to the percentage from the year before.

Renate Pore, director of health care policy with the West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, says the state has done a lot to get kids into coverage.

She maintains the report may overestimate the number of children without health insurance here.

"There really should not be any children in West Virginia who aren't eligible for some kind of health insurance,” she stresses. “So, this is something we're very proud of. We think it's going to make a huge difference in the long run in children's health."

More than one-third of American children get their health insurance through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or through Medicaid.

In the past, CHIP has had strong bipartisan support in Congress, but its budget expires next September.

Alker says she's a little worried that it might run into partisan gridlock.

"Right now, we have just over 5 million children who are uninsured in the United States,” she says. “If Congress doesn't fund that program, that number could swell to over 7 million. So, that's a very critical decision."


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV