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Report: More NC Children Losing Health Coverage

More than 100,000 children in North Carolina currently lack health coverage, according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. (Adobe Stock)
More than 100,000 children in North Carolina currently lack health coverage, according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. (Adobe Stock)
October 30, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. - Fifteen thousand North Carolina children lost health insurance coverage between 2016 and 2018, according to a report released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Michelle Hughes, executive director of the advocacy organization NC Child, said the troubling trend is largely the result of state lawmakers' refusal to expand Medicaid.

"Our state Legislature could roll out the welcome mat to enroll the whole family in health-care coverage, but so far has chosen not to," she said, "and that really is probably the biggest factor behind the number of kids who are falling off the insure goals in our state."

Fourteen other states, many located in the Southeast, also are experiencing a widespread loss of children's health coverage, according to the report.

Hughes said health-insurance coverage is a critical first step in making sure children see a doctor early in life.

"Both for preventive care, so getting things like their immunizations, getting screens for developmental delays," she said, "and also for treatment, making sure that for example, if kids have asthma, that they are able to get inhalers."

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, said Medicaid expansion is a key factor, noting that when parents go through the process of enrolling themselves in Medicaid, they are subsequently more likely to also enroll their children in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"When you look at the data, the increase in the rate of uninsured children is nearly three times as large in states that have not expanded Medicaid," she said, "so that is a very clear way that a state could turn this negative trend around."

Even in states that have chosen to expand Medicaid, Alker said, red-tape barriers and a climate of fear and confusion - especially in immigrant communities - has left many families hesitant to enroll their eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP. In 2018, North Carolina had a total of 130,000 uninsured children, the seventh highest number in the nation.

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.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC