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Number of Uninsured Kids On the Rise in WY

Researchers cite congressional attacks on affordable health coverage in 2017 as one possible reason for an increase in uninsured children. (ShanePeter/Wikimedia Commons)
Researchers cite congressional attacks on affordable health coverage in 2017 as one possible reason for an increase in uninsured children. (ShanePeter/Wikimedia Commons)
November 29, 2018

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – 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.

Wyoming saw an increase of 1,000, and now has a total of 14,000 children without health insurance. Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said Wyoming's decision to not expand Medicaid is having an impact.

"We found three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in states that had not expanded Medicaid to their parents and other adults," said Alker. "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."

The report found states that expanded Medicaid saw more families enroll, and Alker pointed out that children are far more likely to be insured if their parents can access coverage.

State officials have argued that taxpayers could be on the hook for Medicaid costs if the Affordable Care Act implodes.

Alker noted the 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; Congress was trying to cut Medicaid," she explained. "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 thinks it would be in the nation's best interest long-term to build upon years of bipartisan progress in reducing the number of uninsured children.

She said 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 can be viewed online.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY