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Report: Idaho Children's Uninsured Rate Stagnates

Idaho is one of three states where voters decided to expand Medicaid this year. (darby/Twenty20)
Idaho is one of three states where voters decided to expand Medicaid this year. (darby/Twenty20)
November 29, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – After a decade of progress, the number of uninsured children went up last year nationwide.

In an annual report released Thursday, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found more than 275,000 children became uninsured in 2017, bringing the number without coverage to 4 million.

In Idaho, the number of children lacking coverage in 2017 was about 22,000 – the same as 2016.

Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children, says the state made big gains when its health exchange was established in 2010 but has stalled in recent years.

She says health coverage is integral for regular medical checkups – the most effective way to keep children healthy.

"We know that when kids are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, they miss fewer days of school, they get better grades and they're more likely to graduate from high school and attend college,” she stresses.

“So health coverage has a big impact on our children's future."

Necochea says Idaho voters' decision this year to expand Medicaid should bring more kids under the health coverage umbrella.

She says its quick implementation will be most important and could be a game changer when it comes to Idaho's uninsured rate.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says this is the first time since the university started analyzing data eight years ago that no state made progress in covering children.

She notes this backslide comes in a year when the Trump administration cut the budget for publicizing affordable health coverage.

Alker adds that families 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,” she explains. “Congress was trying to cut Medicaid. And then Congress let funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program expire Sept. 30th of that year, and it took them many months to actually get the CHIP program extended. "

Alker says it's in the nation's best interest to build upon years of bipartisan progress in reducing the number of uninsured children.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID