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Report: Virginia Must Improve Child Health Coverage for Latino Families

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021   

RICHMOND, Va. -- Children in Virginia are better off than in most states, but a new report said the Commonwealth needs to improve health outcomes, especially for children of color.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book shows in 2019, more Virginia children had health insurance than the year before. But in March 2021, the uninsured rate for Latino families with children was 16%, double the number for Virginia families overall.

Lauren Snellings, research director at Voices for Virginia's Children, said undocumented immigrants have struggled to get health care, but the state is working to improve that.

"One positive step is the creation of a workgroup by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and that actually has started recently," Snellings reported. "And it's to consider policy and funding recommendations to cover all children, regardless of immigration status."

Virginia moved up a notch, to 13th out of 50 states in the report, in four overall measures of how families are faring. The report also includes the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey data from 2020 to assess the impacts of the pandemic.

Snellings pointed out Virginia made significant strides with Medicaid expansion and increasing health-care access to thousands of families. But efforts to lift kids out of poverty stagnated in 2019.

She emphasized it could change, since Congress voted to boost the Child Tax Credit.

"These enhancements that they made recently, like making it refundable or even increasing the credit amount to $3,600 for kids under six, and being paid directly is great," Snellings contended. "But really, to make sustainable change in childhood poverty, this has to be a permanent solution."

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, agreed permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit would reduce long-standing disparities that affect millions of families of color. She noted the impact of poverty on children can last decades.

"We know that children who grow up in poverty have lower health outcomes," Boissiere explained. "They live in substandard housing that has issues like mold and lead that go untreated. Lower-income families live in poorer neighborhoods that have poorer-resourced schools, so their education outcomes tend to be worse."

The report said Virginia children saw gains in overall economic well-being in 2019, but in terms of health, the number of kids who are obese grew by four percentage points.

Disclosure: Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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