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Report: Fewer Arizona Children Have Health Insurance

Studies show access to health insurance results in better health outcomes, higher academic achievement and greater economic security throughout a child's life. (sutthichai/Adobe Stock)
Studies show access to health insurance results in better health outcomes, higher academic achievement and greater economic security throughout a child's life. (sutthichai/Adobe Stock)
October 9, 2020

PHOENIX -- The number of Arizona children with health insurance, which had steadily increased over the past decade, has begun dropping again.

A new study shows in 2019, 161,000 Arizona children were uninsured, a 22% increase since 2016.

The report, out today from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, shows Arizona's 9.2% rate of uninsured kids is fourth-highest in the nation, and almost double the national average.

Zaida Dedolph, director of health policy for the Children's Action Alliance is concerned the numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

"They're disappointing, but not surprising, given some of the trends that we've seen in the larger health-policy world, basically since 2016," Dedolp commented. "The Affordable Care Act has been under attack, and people are hearing that message over and over again."

As a result, she said, parents may be less likely to try to sign their children up for coverage.

Dedolph noted the data in the report covers a time period when the U.S. economy was relatively strong. She predicts the numbers have gotten worse during the pandemic.

In addition to challenges to the ACA, the report cites government "red tape" and anti-immigration rhetoric as barriers to kids' access to health care.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the increase most affects children of color.

"Arizona, of course, has a large Latino population," Alker explained. "They also have quite a large American Indian population. And those children actually have the highest uninsured rates in the country. We didn't see a change in that; they were already in a bad place."

Alker feels the political climate of the past four years has contributed to the downturn.

"What's so troubling is that we've had years and years of progress as a country in a bipartisan way to reduce the number of uninsured children," argued. "And what we see now as that trend has clearly turned around since President Trump took office."

She said research shows having health insurance improves health outcomes, academic achievement and economic security throughout a child's life.

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.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ