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Maine Treading Water on Children's Health Insurance Coverage

While much of the nation is making gains in getting health insurance for more children; Maine is missing out and still has 12,000 uninsured kids. (Pinterest).
While much of the nation is making gains in getting health insurance for more children; Maine is missing out and still has 12,000 uninsured kids. (Pinterest).
September 26, 2017

BANGOR, Maine – A new report from Georgetown University finds fewer than five percent of children nationwide are uninsured, but Maine is not among the states showing significant progress for 2016.

The new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data finds the state still has about 12,000 children without health-insurance coverage.

Claire Berkowitz, with the Maine Children's Alliance, says a big reason Maine and four other states are not showing bigger gains in 2016, is because they did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"There's a linkage in a lot of research around parent coverage helping children to get coverage, and if that's not happening with parents, some children may not be getting hooked into the public health-care system," she says.

Berkowitz says Maine has increased coverage since passage of the ACA and could still make future gains in coverage, in part because there is a ballot question to expand Medicaid on the November ballot. She says it also is good news for Maine kids that the Graham-Cassidy repeal-and-replace plan appears headed for defeat. Sen. Susan Collins registered strong opposition to the bill on Monday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham argues the ACA is failing, and he cites as evidence the drop in the number of insurance providers in his home state from five down to one.

But Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms says Graham's proposed "fix" lacks vital ingredients.

"In addition to cutting the Affordable Care Act's premium subsidies, the bill repeals the individual mandate," she notes. "Both the subsidies and the mandate are essential to keeping healthy people covered and insurance rates affordable."

Berkowitz says the Medicaid Expansion Ballot Initiative is Question 2 for Mainers on the November ballot.

"It would allow for federal dollars to flow into Maine and to cover more people, and help boost our economy, so we see that as a plus," she explains.

According to the report, almost 2 million children have gained health insurance since the enactment of the ACA. Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska and North Dakota joined Maine in seeing no statistically significant increase in coverage since 2015.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME