LOUISVILLE, KY – The number of uninsured children nationwide increased by about 400,000 in the past two years, reversing nearly a decade of gains, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. An estimated 4 million children were uninsured nationwide in 2018, the highest levels since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014.
In Kentucky, the analysis shows progress on children’s health coverage has halted and potentially reversed course after the state made rapid improvement following Medicaid expansion taking effect. The state nearly cut in half its child uninsured rate following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, but that progress stalled as an estimated 5,000 fewer Kentucky children had health insurance in 2018 than in 2016, US. Census data shows. The change is not statistically significant.
“The majority of Kentucky kids without health insurance are living in low-income households and eligible for Medicaid,” said Emily Beauregard, Executive Director of Kentucky Voices for Health. “The fact that eligible children are losing coverage is a clear sign that families are facing more hurdles to enrollment, not finding better paying jobs that offer employer health insurance. Ongoing attacks on Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion and efforts to add red tape have undercut health coverage for parents and hurt children too.”
Changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid enrollment system called benefind have made it more difficult for families to verify their identify and document income and employment status in order to get enrolled and stay enrolled in coverage. “What may seem like small administrative changes can have big consequences when it comes to keeping kids covered,” said Dr. Deborah Stanley, a pediatrician at HealthFirst Bluegrass in Lexington Kentucky. “Children without insurance are less likely to get preventive care and have health issues treated when they first start. That puts them on a path of developing more serious conditions that can affect their ability to learn and thrive longterm.”
Among the other findings:
- Kentucky children under age 6 are more likely to lack health coverage than older kids, a finding that runs counter to the national trend. This is troubling given the importance of regular check-ups and developmental needs of the youngest children.
- The largest share of uninsured children in Kentucky are Hispanic, with a rate more than twice that of any other racial or ethnic group.
- Children in low-income families, below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, have the highest uninsured rates in the state.
Nationwide, the number of uninsured children increased by about 11 percent between 2016 and 2018.
“Recent policy changes and the failure to make children’s health a priority have undercut bipartisan initiatives and the Affordable Care Act, which had propelled our nation forward on children’s health coverage,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. “This serious erosion of child health coverage is due in large part to the Trump Administration’s actions or inactions that have allowed states to make health coverage harder to access and have deterred families from enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP.”
The report analyzes two-year estimates of summary data from the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Along with the report, the Georgetown University research center launched a new interactive data hub that provides a more in depth look at child health care trends in Kentucky and across the country and allows users to compare a variety of metrics across states.
This is the ninth annual report on uninsured children published by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable coverage for America’s children and families.
About Kentucky Voices for Health
KVH has been a respected voice of consumer advocates and a catalyst in health policy decision-making since 2007. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan coalition, we bring together individuals, advocates, community organizations, state agencies, and policymakers to address the underlying causes of poor health by connecting Kentuckians with opportunities to make change through policy advocacy.
State Outreach and Education Director