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Uninsured Children Numbers Drop in Arkansas

More children around the U.S. are getting healthcare coverage, and the rate in Arkansas improved significantly in the last reporting period. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More children around the U.S. are getting healthcare coverage, and the rate in Arkansas improved significantly in the last reporting period. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
October 29, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Thanks to expanded health coverage opportunities, there are 5,000 more Arkansas children with health insurance. A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families says that's a 13.2 percent drop in the number of uninsured children in just one year.

Marquita Little, health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, says the change is in large part due to entire families enrolling for coverage.

"One of the things that stands out in the report is when you look at the drops in uninsured children, you see that number is even larger for states that expanded Medicaid coverage to more adults," she says. "So we're seeing more kids getting access to coverage due to what we call the welcome-mat effect. When their caregivers or parents sign up, they're also signing up those kids for coverage as well."

Little credits bipartisan support for the ARKids First program as a key factor in educating residents about the coverage options available to them.

Thanks to improvements in the health coverage system in Arkansas, including the state's children's health insurance program and Medicaid, families have more options than ever. But despite the gains, many are still not aware of what's available.

"A lot of families are not even aware of the coverage options available to them, particularly when we're talking about a lot of adults, many of whom have never been insured previously," says Little. "Our changing healthcare landscape can be very complicated to navigate, so that outreach and education becomes very important for those families."

According to Little, more than 95 percent of Arkansas children are now insured.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families, says the study shows a distinction between rural and urban areas.

"Rural areas have higher rates of uninsured children than urban areas, and interestingly it's not the poorest children with the highest rate of uninsurance," she says. "It's that group just above poverty, the low-wage working families, that have the highest rate of uninsured kids."

Alker says while the Affordable Care Act remains controversial in some places, where there has been bipartisan support in a state, children have greatly benefited.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - AR