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Record Health Coverage Rate for West Virginia Children

More American children are getting health care coverage, and the rate in West Virginia is one of the best in the country. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More American children are getting health care coverage, and the rate in West Virginia is one of the best in the country. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
October 29, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – More children are getting health care coverage in West Virginia and nationally than ever before, according to a new study from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The study found just 6 percent of U.S. children going without health care coverage. And the rate in West Virginia is half that.

Joan Alker, the center’s executive director, says the state has worked hard to get here.

"Just 3 percent uninsured kids in West Virginia,” she points out. “They did some hard work to identify kids that were already receiving SNAP benefits and making sure that they were also receiving health coverage."

Alker says Georgetown found the children most likely to go without insurance live in rural areas – and children of the working poor are actually more likely to go without coverage than the very poorest.

The Affordable Care Act was intended in part to reach these populations. And Alker says the states that expanded Medicaid, including West Virginia, had the fastest growth in coverage.

Expanding Medicaid did not extend coverage to more children, but it did cover a lot of parents.

According to Renate Pore, director of health policy for the consumer group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the process of reaching out to those adults and bringing them into the system also brought in a lot of their children – something called the welcome mat effect.

"We've had several hundred people out in communities enrolling adults,” Pore relates. “And so even people who might have been eligible before but didn't know about it, got to know about it and enrolled, and enrolled their children."

More than 40 percent of West Virginia's uninsured children gained coverage between 2013 and 2014 –the third fastest growth in the country. The state now ranks near the top for children with health insurance.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV