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Report: Wash. Makes Big Gains in Health Coverage for Kids

The rate of uninsured children in Washington state is 2.6 percent, the seventh lowest rate in the nation. (Washington State House Republicans/flickr)
The rate of uninsured children in Washington state is 2.6 percent, the seventh lowest rate in the nation. (Washington State House Republicans/flickr)
October 27, 2016

SEATTLE -- Across the country, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children who have health coverage - with Washington state making especially large gains, according to a new study released Thursday.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that, between 2013 and 2015, the number of insured children in the Evergreen State increased by 52,000. That cut the rate of uninsured children to 2.6 percent, the seventh-lowest in the nation.

Adam Holdorf, communications director at the Children's Alliance, said health coverage has long-lasting effects on children's lives.

"Being insured is one of those keys that opens the door to overall health, not only in childhood but throughout your life,” Holdorf said. "It means more checkups to make sure that ordinary childhood illnesses don't develop into something chronic and lifelong."

Holdorf said some of the credit for the progress goes to Washington's Cover All Kids Law passed in 2007, which helped income-eligible kids get health coverage. He also pointed out that racial disparities in coverage persist in the state. The rate of uninsured Hispanic children stands at 3.3 percent.

Across the country, 41 states saw an increase in coverage rates for children during the study period, when major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect. Joan Alker, executive director at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and co-author of the report, said the country has seen an unprecedented reduction in the rate of uninsured children.

"Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance program and the Affordable Care Act have all been working well together and have succeeded in raising the number of children with health insurance coverage to 95 percent,” Alker said. "This is the highest level in pretty much all of recent recorded data."

Holdorf added that while the state has made great strides, there still are children in need of coverage.

"There's really good news in that only 2.6 percent of all children in Washington state are uninsured at this time,” he said. "For the 45,000 children who remain uninsured, we need to ensure better outreach and enrollment efforts, and that they are culturally and linguistically appropriate."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA