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Red-Tape Barriers Create Challenges for KY Children’s Health Coverage

As of 2018, a total of 40,000 children in Kentucky are growing up without health insurance coverage, according to the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. (Adobe Stock)
As of 2018, a total of 40,000 children in Kentucky are growing up without health insurance coverage, according to the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. (Adobe Stock)
October 30, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Five thousand Kentucky children lost their health coverage between 2016 and 2018, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

While Kentucky's uninsured numbers aren't as high as those in neighboring states that didn't expand Medicaid, Emily Beauregard, executive director of the advocacy organization Kentucky Voices for Health, said the trend is troubling.

"These kids have access to coverage; they're just not enrolled," she said, "so what that tells us is that the enrollment system is getting harder. We haven't been able to put our finger on exactly what's happening, but we have heard that there's identity-verification and income-verification processes that are just more complicated than they used to be."

Beauregard said lawmakers should be taking a close look at the state's enrollment system for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to ensure that families aren't falling through bureaucratic gaps.

Dr. Deborah Stanley, medical director of HealthFirst Bluegrass, a community health center in Lexington, said minor problems in early childhood such as speech difficulties or trouble seeing, if left untreated, can grow worse as children get older.

"Children whose parents don't have insurance and are worried about accumulating large bills and don't come in early are going to let things go that maybe aren't really impacting the child greatly at the time," she said.

Stanley said working at a community clinic allows her to see patients regardless of their insurance status, but added that many health-care providers can't afford to do so.

"If I were in a small town in rural Kentucky, and I'm working really hard to pay my nurse, my front-line person, and turn the lights on and pay my rent," she said, "it's really hard to take in a lot of uninsured patients because I've got to pay the bills at the end of the month too."

Kentucky children younger than age 6 are more likely to lack health coverage than older kids. That runs counter to the national trend, according to an analysis of census data by the Georgetown Center.

The 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.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY