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Uninsured Rate Up 50 Percent for Massachusetts' Children

For the first time in a number of years, the percentage of uninsured kids in Massachusetts increased in 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Salt Cebe/U.S. Navy)
For the first time in a number of years, the percentage of uninsured kids in Massachusetts increased in 2017. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Salt Cebe/U.S. Navy)
November 29, 2018

BOSTON – Across the country, the number of children without health insurance rose in 2017 for the first time in eight years, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The research found no state made progress to get more children insured between 2016 and 2017, including Massachusetts. The Commonwealth saw its percentage of uninsured children increase from 1 percent in 2016 to 1.5 percent in 2017.

While that rate is still very low, this was one of the sharpest comparative spikes in the country. Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, explained that the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired last year, and when Congress stalled on extending it, the loss of momentum had a big impact.

"Congress let funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program expire Sept. 30th of that year, and it took them many months to actually get the CHIP program extended," Alker said. "And it created what we would call an 'unwelcome mat' effect."

This could have particularly hurt Massachusetts residents, many of whom rely on CHIP to cover their children.

Alker said Congress repeatedly trying to cut Medicaid, and the Trump administration reducing support for the Affordable Care Act, led to fewer adults being insured – and when adults go without health coverage, their children often do as well.

She added many uninsured children come from immigrant families, at a time when national politics have made parents afraid to seek services.

"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 said.

The report recommends states do more outreach and make their enrollment and renewal processes easier for families.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA