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Maine Falls Behind New England States in Reaching Uninsured Kids

Maine was once a leader in ensuring health coverage for kids, but a new report finds the state is lagging behind other New England states in providing coverage. Credit: Skeeze/Pixabay.
Maine was once a leader in ensuring health coverage for kids, but a new report finds the state is lagging behind other New England states in providing coverage. Credit: Skeeze/Pixabay.
October 29, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine continues to fall behind other New England states when it comes to getting health insurance to children. A new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families ranks Maine 37th in the nation for kids without health insurance.

Claire Berkowitz, executive director of Maine Children's Alliance, says the report's findings are "sorry news," since Maine was once a leader in providing children's coverage.

"It's the highest rate in the New England states. As other states have made progress, Maine is falling behind," she says. "Between 2012 and 2014, Maine experienced a significant increase in its rate of uninsured children."

The report notes Maine's rate for uninsured children was just over six percent in 2014.

According to Berkowitz, the state could fill the coverage gap by expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act – but Maine is heading in the opposite direction.

"It's a proven fact that as parents gain coverage to health insurance coverage, their children do too," she says. "A few years ago we rolled back parents' eligibility in Medicaid. And so, as parents lost coverage, we are seeing this increase in children without coverage."

Report co-author Joan Alker at Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families says expanding Medicaid and embracing the Affordable Care Act were the most significant factors for states that saw the biggest improvements in their report.

"People don't think about Medicaid expansion as a kids' issue," she says. "But we know from past research that covering parents results in what we call a strong 'welcome mat.'"

The report also found that children living in rural states like Maine are disproportionately uninsured.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME