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Maine: Highest Rate of Uninsured Children in Northeast in 2018

Maine was the only state in the Northeast that blocked Medicaid expansion, which explains part of why it had the highest rate of children who were uninsured in the region last year. (LMMiller9/Pixabay)
Maine was the only state in the Northeast that blocked Medicaid expansion, which explains part of why it had the highest rate of children who were uninsured in the region last year. (LMMiller9/Pixabay)
October 30, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine had the highest rate of uninsured children in the Northeast in 2018, according to new findings.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families released a report today that detailed how larger numbers of children have been uninsured since 2016, reversing a nearly decade-long trend in the United States.

Melissa Hackett, communications associate at the
Maine Children's Alliance
, said the increase in Maine was largely due to former Gov. Paul LePage blocking Medicaid expansion - and the state eligibility guidelines for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Hackett explained how far above the federal poverty line a child's family can be to get CHIP.

"The average for the eligibility for CHIP nationally is 250%," she said, "but in Maine it's only 200%, and federally, that's reimbursable up to 300%."

This year, Maine is taking steps to insure more children. Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order to expand Medicaid on her first day in office.

Hackett said the Maine Children's Alliance and others are advocating for a bill next legislative session that would increase CHIP eligibility.

"There was a piece of legislation last session," she said, "and it will come up again this session, which will work to try to increase eligibility to 300% of the federal poverty line."

That bill, LD 1539, "An Act To Provide Maine Children Access to Affordable Health Care," is being carried over from the last session.

The report blamed Trump administration "actions or inaction" that are making health insurance harder to get nationally, including undercutting the Affordable Care Act. Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, said many Latino children lost coverage because more immigrant parents feared interacting with the government. However, several other groups also saw decreases in coverage.

"White children also had a significant loss of coverage," she said. "Young children, under age 6 - and that's really troubling. And we're also seeing families who are just right above the poverty lines, with incomes around $30,000 a year, those working-poor families losing coverage."

The report said the number of uninsured children in the United States increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018.

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.
Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME