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Spike in Number of Uninsured NC Children Among Highest in Nation

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Monday, October 12, 2020   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- An estimated 142,000 North Carolina children were uninsured last year, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

The report found the state's rate of uninsured kids jumped by 24% between 2016 and 2019, the seventh largest increase in the nation. Most uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, or "CHIP." But the government slashed budgets for outreach and enrollment assistance, leaving many families either unaware or confused about how to sign up.

Michelle Hughes, executive director with the group NC Child, said the Trump administration's hostile rhetoric toward immigrants is likely also deterring parents from signing up their kids.

"Latino children in North Carolina are more than twice as likely as other children to have no health care coverage," Hughes said. "And we really need to repeal the public charge rule that is impacting these kids."

The Trump administration is now resuming its scrutiny of green card applicants receiving public benefits. A federal judge temporarily halted the public charge rule over the summer citing concerns over the pandemic.

Additionally, the data reveals a surge of un-insurance among the state's preschool-aged children, with nearly 9,000 more kids under age 6 becoming uninsured during the three-year period - a nearly 36% increase for young children.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the number of uninsured children has increased every year of the Trump administration. The largest jump was between 2018 and 2019.

"What's so troubling is that, you know, we've had years and years of progress as a country, in a bipartisan way, to reduce the number of uninsured children. And what we see now is that trend has clearly turned around since President Trump took office," Alker said. "And we're going backwards at an accelerating rate."

About 726,000 children have lost health coverage nationwide since 2016, during a relatively strong economic period before the onset of the coronavirus. Hughes predicts that number is likely to increase.

She added state lawmakers could expand Medicaid or adopt a state plan where parents and caregivers can get health coverage. Research has shown that when parents are covered, their kids are more likely to be covered as well.

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.


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