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Report: Number of Uninsured Ark. Kids on the Increase

A new report shows that fewer children are signed up for health coverage in Arkansas and across the country. (Pixabay)
A new report shows that fewer children are signed up for health coverage in Arkansas and across the country. (Pixabay)
November 29, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After a decade of steady improvement, the number of children with health insurance is dropping, in Arkansas and across the nation.

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that nationwide, the number of kids without health coverage grew to 5 percent in 2017.

Laura Kellams, northwest state director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the rate of uninsured children also is up in Arkansas.

"We have had gains over the last 20 years, and this year we actually saw the number of uninsured kids in Arkansas increase for the first time in a while," Kellams said. "It went up by about 3,000 kids in Arkansas."

Nationally, the report found 276,000 more children were uninsured in 2017 than in 2016.

It also found that about three-quarters of the children who lost coverage are in states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Kellams said while Arkansas expanded its Medicaid program under the ACA, the state has added work rules and other conditions that have limited enrollment.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, expressed frustration at the setbacks in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"I've been writing this report for eight years, and this is the first time that I've seen this lack of progress, and even falling backwards in a number of states," said Alker. "It's very troubling."

The report cites constant attacks on the ACA, the move to cap Medicaid and the delay in reauthorizing CHIP as factors that contributed to public unease about signing up. The administration also cut the ACA open-enrollment period in half, and made other changes to the program.

"There's been a steady effort by the Trump administration to create a climate of intimidation for immigrant families," Alker added, "So a lot of uninsured kids are citizen kids, but they might have a parent who's an immigrant. And those families are increasingly worried about interacting with the government."

She predicted that unless changes are made in Washington, D.C., the number of children without health coverage will continue to grow across the country.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR