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Report Ranks TN High for Uninsured Children

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Recent data from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows nationwide, about 276,000 fewer children had health insurance in 2017 than in 2016. (Masterone/Twenty20)
Recent data from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows nationwide, about 276,000 fewer children had health insurance in 2017 than in 2016. (Masterone/Twenty20)
November 29, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Children's advocates say while the need for Medicaid expansion has been overlooked by the Tennessee legislature, its impact on the growing number of uninsured children shouldn't be ignored.

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows Tennessee topping states where the numbers are backsliding, partly due to lack of Medicaid expansion.

"Studies show that children are more likely to be insured when their parents have coverage,” explains Kinika Young, director of children's health for the Tennessee Justice Center. “So it's really important to close the coverage gap and make sure that everyone has insurance, so that children can grow up in families that have this coverage and are more likely to take advantage of the coverage that's available to them."

The report says uninsured children are more likely to have untreated medical conditions that could lead to longer-term health issues and missed days of school.

If the state were to expand Medicaid, at least 250,000 people would gain access to coverage.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center and a report co-author, says expansion is key.

"We found three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in states that have not expanded Medicaid to their parents and other adults,” she points out. “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."

Medicaid expansion has been a non-starter for most Republican lawmakers in Tennessee, who control both chambers of the State legislature.

The report also cites Congress' trouble getting the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, reauthorized last year, and steep federal cuts to programs that inform people about their insurance options.

Alker hopes the one-year downturn doesn't become a trend.

"We won't have the 2018 data, of course, until next fall, but we're very concerned that this number is actually going to get worse,” she states. “Barring new and serious efforts to get back on track, there's every reason to believe this decline in the number of kids having health insurance may get worse in 2018."

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - TN