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NC Sees Growing Number of Uninsured Children

Recent data from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows about 276,000 fewer children had health insurance in 2017 than in 2016. (amyhilbrand/Tewnty20)
Recent data from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows about 276,000 fewer children had health insurance in 2017 than in 2016. (amyhilbrand/Tewnty20)
November 29, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. – Child care advocates say while the need for Medicaid expansion has been overlooked by the North Carolina legislature, its impact on the growing number of uninsured children shouldn't be ignored.

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that number has climbed to almost 120,000 in North Carolina. And it isn't the only state where the numbers are backsliding, partly due to lack of Medicaid expansion.

Ciara Zachary, health program director for NC Child, explains when parents aren't covered, their children also are more likely not to be.

"If North Carolina continues to leave parents in the coverage gap, this makes it more likely that children that probably could have access to Medicaid and CHIP coverage are not getting the insurance coverage that they need for their healthy development," she states.

The report says uninsured children are more likely to have untreated medical conditions that could lead to longer term health issues and missed days of school.

If Medicaid is expanded in North Carolina, as proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper's administration, an estimated 600,000 residents would become newly eligible for coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center and report co-author, says expansion is key.

"We found three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in states that have not expanded Medicaid to their parents and other adults,” she points out. “Really, the only thing I think at this point that a state could do to overcome these negative national currents would be to expand Medicaid."

Medicaid expansion has been blocked by a Republican majority since Cooper took office in January 2017.

The report also cites Congress' trouble getting the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP reauthorized last year, and steep federal cuts to programs that inform people about their insurance options.

Alker hopes the one-year downturn doesn't become a trend.

"We won't have the 2018 data, of course, until next fall, but we're very concerned that this number is actually going to get worse,” she states. “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."

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC