A Nationwide estimate states that the rate of uninsured children could be as high as 6%
A new study published by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families shows the rate of uninsured children in the U.S. grew to its highest level in over a decade in 2019.
Growing by a full percentage point since last year, the number includes approximately 178,000 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers under the age of 6
Even before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented in 2014, decades of bipartisan work in Congress to expand Medicaid and establish the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helped to drive down the rate of uninsured children, she said.
But as new Medicaid enrollment began to taper off in 2017, the number of uninsured children began to rise, erasing much of the ACA-driven coverage expansion.
The fall in insurance rate has many causes, including:
- Cutting outreach and enrollment funding, as well as funding for community navigators who can help individuals identify a health plan
- Creating more “red tape” around enrollment and renewal of health plans
- Imposing a “public charge” rule on legal immigrant families
“What’s so troubling is that this data is pre-pandemic. These rates reflect a period when unemployment was “extremely low,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy, during a webinar on October 9.
The report broke down the coverage losses by state and found that Texas, with 243,000 children losing coverage from 2016 to 2019, had the highest increase nationwide, followed by Florida, which saw 55,000 children lose coverage during the same period.
Together the two states account for 41% of the increase in uninsured children.
In all, 26 states saw significant increases in the numbers of insured children; New York was the only state to see a “significant improvement” in the number of uninsured children, and the remaining states saw “no significant change,” the report noted.
As for the rate of uninsured children, which is a better comparator state-to-state than the number of uninsured children because it helps to account for a state’s relative size, South Dakota topped the list with a rate increase of 3.1%, and Texas and Utah followed, at 2.9% and 2.3%, respectively.
The report also found that a disproportionate share of uninsured children live in the South (52.7%), with the South accounting for 39% of the total child population in the U.S.
As for the racial breakdown of these uninsured children, “losses have been most pronounced for white children, multi-racial children, and for Latino children who can be of any race,” Alker said.
Rates for American Indian and Alaska Natives, who she noted have had the highest children’s uninsured rates of any racial group for years, rose from 12.9% in 2018 to 13.8% in 2019.