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Number of WI Uninsured Children Holds Steady, but Just Barely

A new report says Latinx and white children, and children under age six, are among the groups that saw the biggest increases in loss of health insurance from 2016 to 2018. (Gtorres8944stash/Morguefile)
A new report says Latinx and white children, and children under age six, are among the groups that saw the biggest increases in loss of health insurance from 2016 to 2018. (Gtorres8944stash/Morguefile)
October 31, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin saw a slight increase in the number of uninsured children between 2016 and 2018. And according to a new report, the state is doing better than many, but could be doing more to keep children covered.

The research from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, found nationally, 400,000 more children are going without health care insurance – and researchers mostly blame federal policies and funding cuts to the Affordable Care Act.

Wisconsin was almost able to hold the line, with an increase of only 1,000 more children uninsured.

But William Parke-Sutherland, health policy engagement coordinator for the children’s advocacy group Kids Forward, says it doesn't bode well if the economy slows down.

"The sort of alarming factor about that is, that stagnation happened during a period of economic growth and low unemployment, where we would expect children to be gaining in health coverage," he points out.

The report says Wisconsin's overall rate of uninsured children, at 3.8%, is still well below the national average of 5.2%. The rate in the Midwest overall is 4.3%.

Over the past two years, Wisconsin managed to keep most children insured despite being one of the only Midwest states not to have fully expanded Medicaid.

Sutherland says that, coupled with other factors, could mean Wisconsin hasn't seen the worst of it yet.

"The impact of these changes will show up more fully in the 2019 and 2020 numbers – particularly looking at what the federal administration is doing to create a climate of fear and confusion for immigrant families," he states.

Sutherland adds the Trump administration's "public charge" rule, which would make it more difficult for immigrants to access public assistance programs, is just one anti-immigrant policy that keeps families from signing up for health coverage, even when their children are eligible.

Sutherland says Wisconsin also needs to eliminate state policies that create enrollment gaps, so children can keep their coverage as long as they need it.

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.
Mike Moen/Scott Herron, Public News Service - WI