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Advocates Disheartened by Increase in Uninsured Kids in KY

The rate of uninsured children in Kentucky rose 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. (Free-Fotos/Pixabay)
The rate of uninsured children in Kentucky rose 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. (Free-Fotos/Pixabay)
November 29, 2018

FRANKFORT, Ky. – For the first time in nearly a decade, the number of children without health coverage in the United States has risen; in Kentucky, it stands at 41,000.

According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, the number of uninsured kids rose by more than 275,000 in 2017, and nearly 4 million children in the U.S. now lack coverage.

Kentucky saw an increase of 17 percent, or 6,000 children.

Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, believes many factors are at play, including congressional efforts to shrink programs designed to help working families, which she said has created an "unwelcome mat" effect.

"It's really disheartening after so many years of making those gains in coverage," said Beauregard. "Between ACA sabotage and threats to roll back Medicaid coverage for adults, it's not surprising that some families are no longer enrolling in the benefits that they're eligible for."

In 2017, the Trump administration cut the budget for publicizing affordable coverage and hiring "navigators" to help explain the enrollment process for the Affordable Care Act.

States that expanded Medicaid, including Kentucky, fared better in the report than those that have not expanded their programs.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center and report co-author, said the research shows in families where parents have health insurance, kids are more likely to have it, too.

"Few things matter more than a healthy childhood. When children's health needs are met, they're better able to learn in school and their parents miss fewer days of work," Alker said. "We need to make sure that we redouble our efforts to continue years of bipartisan progress to reduce the number of uninsured children."

The report also cited Congress' trouble getting the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorized last year. Alker hopes the one-year downturn doesn't become a trend.

"We're very concerned that this number is actually going to get worse," she warned. "Barring new and serious efforts to get back on track, there's every reason to believe this decline in the number of kids having health insurance may get worse in 2018."

The full report is online.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY