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Report: More Kids in Florida Without Health Coverage

The uninsured rates for children increased at almost triple the rate in non-Medicaid expansion states than in states that have expanded Medicaid, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. (SeppH/Pixabay)
The uninsured rates for children increased at almost triple the rate in non-Medicaid expansion states than in states that have expanded Medicaid, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute. (SeppH/Pixabay)
November 29, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For the first time in a decade, the number of children without health coverage in the United States has risen.

According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, 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.

Florida saw an increase of 37,000, and now has about 325,000 kids without health insurance.

Anne Swerlick, senior policy analyst with the Florida Policy Institute, said her group has already been trying to push back and offer solutions to the state's uninsured rate, which is significantly higher than the national average.

The report's findings are troubling for her as she looks ahead to 2019.

"This is an alarming trend, and we need to pay attention, because it's anticipated it may get even worse," Swerlick warned.

She suggested one solution is for Florida to expand Medicaid, because expansion states saw more families enroll. Children are more likely to be insured if their parents can access coverage, and the report found states that have not expanded Medicaid saw their children's uninsured rates increase three times faster in 2017.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, pointed out that 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.

Alker said people also were watching a steady stream of congressional efforts to shrink programs designed to help working families, which she described as creating an "unwelcome mat" effect.

"Congress was trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for much of the year; Congress was trying to cut Medicaid," explained Alker. "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 noted 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.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL