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Utah Sees Increase in Number of Uninsured Children

A new report shows the number of children without health insurance, in Utah and across the nation, is on the increase. (AdobeStock)
A new report shows the number of children without health insurance, in Utah and across the nation, is on the increase. (AdobeStock)
October 30, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY - After almost a decade of steady improvement, the number of children without health insurance in Utah and the nation is on the rise again, according to a new report.

The study, released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, found that nationally, the rate of uninsured children increased from 4.7% to 5.2% between 2016 and 2018. In Utah, the rate expanded over the same period from 6% to 7.4%.

Jessie Mandle, senior policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children, said Utah was among the states with the highest increase.

"We're seeing about 1,000 kids lose Medicaid and CHIP coverage every month, and even with our strong economy, we know that kids are not getting connected with health insurance," she said. "Part of that is that larger national trend, but also we have policies here that are not helping kids get covered and stay covered."

The report found multiple causes for the downturn, including efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, delays in funding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and inadequate oversight of state Medicaid programs.

Mandle cited another factor that is pushing immigrant children out of the program. She said misinformation over "public charge" for Medicaid recipients is creating fear and confusion among immigrant families.

"There's just been general misinformation and confusion," she said. "Then, there's also a climate of fear right now. A lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies coming out of the federal level are affecting families here and discouraging many of our immigrant and mixed status families from enrolling."

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, said the center has been doing the report for nine years. In 2016, she said, the research showed the lowest number of uninsured children yet, but the trend has reversed since then.

"That has turned around now, and what's clear from this new data is that the country is going in the wrong direction," she said, "and we see that it's very hard for any state to make progress with some of the negative national trends that are happening."

The report found that 15 states, including Utah, showed statistically significant increases in the number of uninsured kids. It also found the number of uninsured children in states that did not expand Medicaid increased at triple the rate of those in expansion states.

The Georgetown report is online at ccf.georgetown.edu, and a state-specific data hub is at kidshealthcarereport.ccf.georgetown.edu.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT