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Study: Number of Uninsured Kids in Utah on the Increase

A new study shows that the number of uninsured children in Utah and across the nation is on the rise. (Pixabay)
A new study shows that the number of uninsured children in Utah and across the nation is on the rise. (Pixabay)
November 29, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – After a decade of improvement, the number of children with health insurance is dropping in Utah and across the nation.

A report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that the number of Utah children without health coverage grew at the second fastest rate in the country in 2017 – an increase of 12,000 children.

Jessie Mandle, a senior health policy analyst for Utah Voices for Children, says the state took a major step on election night toward turning that trend around.

"Utah actually did recently pass a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid,” she points out. “That will have a big impact here in terms of helping more kids get affordable health coverage – and more parents.

“We know that when parents have health coverage, kids are more likely to get covered, as well."

Nationally, according to the report, 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.

The national rate for uninsured children grew from 4.7 percent to 5 percent.

The report's co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, says access to health care is one of the most important factors in a child's development.

"Few things matter more than a healthy childhood,” she stresses. “When children's health needs are met, they're better able to learn in school and their parents miss fewer days of work.

“Really, as we think ahead to our nation's future, we need to make sure that we redouble our efforts to continue years of bipartisan progress to reduce the number of uninsured children."

In the report, Alker says that the constant attacks on the ACA, the move to cap Medicaid and the delay in reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program all contributed to unease among the public about signing up.

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

Alker says that unless changes are made in Washington, the number of children without health coverage will continue to grow across the country.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT