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Report: More Kids in Nebraska Lack Health Coverage

Three in four kids who lost health coverage in 2017 live in states, including Nebraska, that have not yet expanded Medicaid. (USAF)
Three in four kids who lost health coverage in 2017 live in states, including Nebraska, that have not yet expanded Medicaid. (USAF)
November 29, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. – For the first time in a decade, the number of children without health coverage 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.

Nebraska saw an increase of 1,000, and now has a total of 26,000 thousand kids without health insurance. But Molly McCleery, deputy director of Nebraska Appleseed's Health Care Program, expressed hope that voters paved the way for a significant turnaround by choosing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"Children who live in states that expanded Medicaid are more likely to be insured," McCleery said. "We're hopeful with the passage of Initiative 427 that more children will get insured in Nebraska."

McCleery said states that expanded Medicaid have seen more families enroll, adding that children are far more likely to be insured if their parents can access coverage.

Compared with expansion states, the report found states that have not expanded Medicaid saw their uninsured rates for children nearly triple in 2017.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said 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.

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," Alker 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 is 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.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE