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VA's Child Health Access Better, Poverty Numbers Stubbornly High

Children's advocates say they're disappointed by the high number of Virginia children living in poverty. (Pixabay)
Children's advocates say they're disappointed by the high number of Virginia children living in poverty. (Pixabay)
June 13, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – More Virginia children are getting healthcare coverage, according to the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book. But the state is struggling with a stubbornly high number of kids in poverty.

According to the report, 95 percent of the states' children now have access to healthcare, many through Medicaid or FAMIS, the state's CHIP program.

But, Beth Nolan, KIDS COUNT director at Voices for Virginia's Children, says in spite of the economy now gradually recovering, one-sixth of the state's children still live in poor households.

"There's still one in every six children who live in poverty," she laments. "And what's startling is that, while the United States has actually seen a five-percent decline in the number of children living in poverty, Virginia has seen a seven-percent increase."

In the new report, Virginia moved up one spot in the rankings for overall child well-being, from 11th in the nation to 10th.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation puts out the KIDS COUNT Data Book each year.

Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director for policy reform and advocacy, says nationally, they're seeing slow progress in a number of areas - although some budget decisions could put that progress in peril.

"Hold the line on gains that we've made, the investments that we've made in things like the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Earned Income Tax Credit," Speer says. "We've seen progress because of these investments, and we want to keep the progress going."

The big healthcare bill that passed the U.S. House would cut the Medicaid program by one-quarter over ten years.

Nolan says she worries that could stall the slow advances Virginia has made in ensuring that children have access to care.

"Working for years to get to 95 percent coverage rate," Nolan adds. "Cuts at the federal level would impact the number of children who are able to access Medicaid and FAMIS coverage."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA