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Maine Ranks in Top 15 for Child Well-Being, Trails New England Neighbors

Maine is making progress on some education issues, but is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to health coverage for kids, according to a new report (M. Clifford)
Maine is making progress on some education issues, but is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to health coverage for kids, according to a new report (M. Clifford)
June 13, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine ranks in the top 15 among states for children's well-being, according to a new report, but it trails its neighboring New England states.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows most states saw significant drops in their percentages of children without health-insurance coverage. Nationwide, the uninsured rate for kids dropped from 8 percent in 2010 to just 5 percent in 2015.

But Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children's Alliance, says it is concerning that kids in Maine are not sharing in that increased access to health coverage.

"Here in Maine, we're one of the only states that went in the wrong direction, according to this report," Berkowitz notes. "In 2010, our uninsured rate for kids was 4 percent, and in 2016 it was 6 percent."

Berkowitz says the states that saw the most improvement where those that opted to expand Medicaid eligibility. She points out that Maine not only declined the Medicaid expansion, but also has rolled back eligibility for parents.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont were the top three states for child well-being in the report.

Overall, the national trend is encouraging, says Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director for policy reform and advocacy, with 95 percent of children now having access to health coverage.

"We need to hold the line on gains that we've made," Speer states. "This is not a time for us to back away from the investments that we've made in things like the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Earned Income Tax Credit. We've seen progress because of these investments, and we want to keep the progress going."

For Maine, Berkowitz says the report showed some bright spots in education, with fourth-graders scoring better in reading, and 87 percent of Maine high-school students graduating on time. The picture is not as promising, however, for preschoolers.

"What's of concern to us is that we went in the wrong direction, slightly, for kids who aren't enrolled in preschool," she explains. "Of 3- and 4-year-olds, 58 percent haven't had access to any kind of early-childhood program."

She adds that these programs play a big role in getting kids ready to learn.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME