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Illinois Reverses Course in Children's Health Care Coverage

In Illinois, 102,000 children did not have health insurance coverage in 2018. (Adobe Stock)
In Illinois, 102,000 children did not have health insurance coverage in 2018. (Adobe Stock)
October 31, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – After several years of trending downward, the number of children without health care insurance in Illinois and the nation is on the rise again, according to a new report.

The study, released Wednesday by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, finds that there were 20,000 more uninsured children in Illinois in 2018 compared with 2016 – a 24% increase.

Stephanie Altman, director of health care justice and senior director of policy at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law in Chicago, says children need health insurance to access routine medical care.

"Well-child visits are really important for things like developmental screening or for pediatricians to be able to catch any problems at the earliest possible time and prevent things that are more costly or could cause a much larger health condition," she stresses.

Nationally, the number of children without health insurance increased 11%.

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

Altman notes that the loss of coverage was most pronounced for white and Latino children, and the report suggests a climate of fear could be preventing families from enrolling eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP.

"We are afraid that immigration policies at the federal level, including the proposed ‘public charge’ rule, which has been stayed by the courts for the moment, is causing a lot of fear in the community about enrollment in health insurance," she states.

In 2016, the same researchers reported the lowest number of uninsured children in a decade, but Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says that trend has now reversed.

To get back on track, Alker says federal and state leaders need to make children's health a priority.

"Start reducing those red-tape barriers, start funding more outreach and enrollment efforts, so that families know they can get coverage – and then, how they can get coverage, and they can do it easily," she urges.

Illinois's uninsured child rate is 3.4%. The national rate is 5.2%.

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.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL