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Report: North Dakota Has Fewer Uninsured Children, But More Work Needed

North Dakota has fewer uninsured kids, but the state's Native American population still faces significant health coverage challenges. Credit: Ever Thrive Illinois.
North Dakota has fewer uninsured kids, but the state's Native American population still faces significant health coverage challenges. Credit: Ever Thrive Illinois.
October 29, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota is making progress when it comes to children's health insurance coverage, but a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families also shows that North Dakota's rate of uninsured children is still above the national average.

Karen Olson, program director of North Dakota Kids Count, says the state's Native American population is disproportionately at risk.

"The uninsured rate among American Indian children in North Dakota is currently at 14 percent, so it's twice the rate of children overall," she says. "We still have more work to do to make sure that children have access to health insurance."

The report notes the number of uninsured children dropped nationally to a historic low of six percent last year. North Dakota comes in above the national average at 6.9 percent, which still represents a nine percent drop from 2013.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says states such as North Dakota, which chose to expand their Medicaid coverage under changes from the Affordable Care Act, saw the biggest drops.

"We found nearly double the rate of decline in uninsured kids that accepted the Medicaid expansion option, even though these states already had fewer uninsured kids to begin with," she says.

The report notes North Dakota still has about 11,000 uninsured children. Olson says many North Dakota parents who are living at or near the poverty line may not realize their children are eligible for insurance.

"Continuing to build awareness and connecting these uninsured children to free and low-cost coverage." says Olson. "These things are essential to increasing participation rates for children, but also reducing the uninsured rate."

Olson says North Dakota has a unique challenge since it has one of the fastest-growing populations of children in the country. She says the next steps should include more outreach and education on the available health insurance programs in minority communities.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND