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Access to Health Care Critical for Wisconsin Kids

Wisconsin has some work to do in catching up to its neighbors in making sure children are covered by health insurance. (petrograd99/
Wisconsin has some work to do in catching up to its neighbors in making sure children are covered by health insurance. (petrograd99/
January 15, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - A new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and the National Council of La Raza shows the Affordable Care Act is working, helping more families get the health care coverage they need.

But it also shows Wisconsin has some work to do in getting the state's Hispanic children covered, according to Sashi Gregory, policy analyst with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

"We do see some gains in access to health care coverage in Hispanic children but health inequities actually remain pervasive in our state," says Gregory. "We just really need to work together to help families learn about coverage options to get their children and themselves insured, and to help close this gap."

While Wisconsin is close to the national average in assuring health care coverage for Hispanic children, there are still nearly 1,400 Hispanic kids in Wisconsin without coverage. The uninsured rate of 9.3 percent for Wisconsin's Hispanic children is more than double the uninsured rate for all children in the state, which the report says is 4.4 percent.

Sonya Schwartz, policy fellow with the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, emphasizes the importance of making kids healthy learners by making sure they have the health care they need.

"Healthy children are healthy learners," says Schwartz. "We have some new research available, and it shows that health coverage for children is linked to better health throughout childhood. It's linked to school success, and it's linked to improved financial security for their families."

The report recommends that programs like Medicaid and CHIP be extended to cover all lawfully residing children, and that targeted efforts be made to remove barriers such as language, so Hispanic parents and their children can obtain coverage.

Gregory says while Wisconsin is making strides forward in improving health care access for Hispanic children, the state has a long way to go to catch its neighbors.

"Several Wisconsin neighbors have much lower uninsured rates among Hispanic children," says Gregory. "If you look at Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, they all have rates a little bit below 5 percent and I think this shows that there's still a lot more work that we can actually do here in Wisconsin."

Gregory says by accepting Medicaid expansion dollars, the state would make health insurance more affordable to all Wisconsin families.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI