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CO Holds Steady on Kids' Health Coverage

Three in four kids who lost health coverage in 2017 live in states that had not expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Pixnio)
Three in four kids who lost health coverage in 2017 live in states that had not expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Pixnio)
November 29, 2018

DENVER – For the first time in a decade, the number of uninsured children in the United States has gone up.

According to a new Georgetown University report, 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.

Erin Miller, vice president for health initiatives with the Colorado Children's Campaign, said while 57,000 kids in the state still lack coverage, the good news is that Colorado was able to hold its uninsured rate steady.

"Holding steady was the result of all of these great bipartisan policy efforts in Colorado," Miller said. "And I think that comes from a long history of advocates and policy makers and legislators working to get kids covered in Colorado."

Miller noted that in 2008, 14 percent of Colorado children lacked health coverage, and by 2016 that number had dropped to 4 percent. She attributed the decrease to a series of state-level decisions, including expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Compared with expansion states, states that have not expanded Medicaid saw their uninsured rates for children nearly triple in 2017.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the national increase in uninsured kids came during a year when the Trump administration cut the budget for publicizing affordable coverage and hiring "navigators" to help explain the enrollment process.

According to Alker, people also were watching a steady stream of congressional efforts to shrink programs designed to help working families, which she believes created an "unwelcome mat" effect.

"Congress was trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for much of the year," Alker explained. "Congress was trying to cut Medicaid. And then, Congress let funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program expire Sept. 30 of that year, and it took them many months to actually get the CHIP program extended."

Alker believes it is in the nation's best interest long-term to build upon years of bipartisan progress in reducing the number of uninsured children.

She added that when children's health needs are met, their parents miss fewer days of work, kids are better able to learn in school and are better equipped to make positive contributions as adults.

The full report is online.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO