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More Children Without Health Insurance In WV, Nationwide

For a number of years, West Virginia has done a better job of providing healthcare access for children than many other states. (Bess-Hamiti/Pixabay)
For a number of years, West Virginia has done a better job of providing healthcare access for children than many other states. (Bess-Hamiti/Pixabay)
November 29, 2018

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – For the first time in years, the number of children without health insurance has risen, in West Virginia and across the country.

The rate in West Virginia is still less than 3 percent, which is well below the national average. But according to Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, last year the number of uninsured American children increased by over a quarter-million.

Alker says the annual survey found, for the first time, that no state made progress.

"They either fell backwards or stagnated," said Alker. "Despite an improving economy and a lower unemployment rate, the number of children with health coverage is declining, and that's very, very troubling."

Nationwide, 5 percent of children lacked health insurance last year, up from 4.7 percent the year before. In West Virginia, the rate was 2.6 percent, up from 2.3 percent.

Georgetown has issued a report on this each year since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. The number had gone down in each previous report, but not this one.

According to Kelli Caseman, director of child health with the group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, debates in Congress over health policy may have confused some of the public.

"The threat of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the long delay in reauthorizing CHIP funding," Caseman observed. "Due to a lot of misinformation, people may not have taken their kids in to re-enroll in health insurance, which is unfortunate."

The increase in West Virginia is much smaller than in other states. Caseman credited the work done here to connect children to health care.

"I am so proud of our state," she said. "We have a really robust outreach plan that has kept us a leader in keeping kids insured. And it's something that we've done for a long time; it's something that we've done well."

The full report is online.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV