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Under Trump, Number Of Uninsured Kids Rose For First Time This Decade

What, if anything, should Congress do to increase children's insurance rates?

by Kaiser Health News | Updated on 11.29.18

After years of steady decline, the number of U.S. children without health insurance rose by 276,000 in 2017, according to a Georgetown University report released Thursday.

While not a big jump statistically — the share of uninsured kids rose to 5 percent in 2017 from 4.7 percent a year earlier — it is still striking. The uninsured rate typically remains stable or drops during times of economic growth. In September, the U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest level since 1969.

“The nation is going backwards on insuring kids and it is likely to get worse,” said Joan Alker, co-author of the study and executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families.

Alker and other child health advocates place the blame for this change on the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, saying their policies and actions cast a pall on enrollment.

The number of children without coverage rose to 3.9 million in 2017 from about 3.6 million a year earlier, according to Census data analyzed by Georgetown.

The overall uninsured rate for people of all ages — which plummeted from 2013 to 2016 following the health law’s implementation — remained unchanged at 8.8 percent last year.

The share of children with employer-sponsored coverage rose modestly in 2017, but not by enough to make up for the drop in children enrolling in Medicaid or getting coverage from Obamacare insurance exchanges, Alker said.

While no states made any significant gains in lowering children’s uninsured rate, nine states experienced significant increases. The biggest occurred in South Dakota (up from 4.7 percent to 6.2 percent), Utah (up from 6 percent to 7.3 percent) and Texas (from 9.8 percent to 10.7 percent).

More than 1 in 5 uninsured children nationwide live in Texas — about 835,000 kids — by far the highest number of any state.

Florida had 325,000 uninsured children last year, as its uninsured rate for that age group rose 0.7 percentage points to 7.3 percent. California had 301,000 children without insurance, though its number remained virtually unchanged, relative to the previous year.

Other states with significant increases were Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Massachusetts.

The uninsured rates for children increased at nearly triple the rates in states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to the report. Studies have shown that children whose parents are insured are more likely to have coverage.

The uninsured rate among Hispanic children was 7.8 percent, compared with 4.9 percent among whites and 4.6 percent among blacks overall. (Hispanics can be of any race.)

Georgetown has been tracking these figures since 2008 when 7.6 million children — or about 10 percent of kids — lacked health coverage.

Because nearly all low-income children are eligible for Medicaid or the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, the challenge is making sure parents are aware of the programs, getting them enrolled and keeping them signed up as long as they are eligible, Alker said.

Congress let the CHIP program funding lapse for several months in 2017, putting states in a position of having to warn consumers that they would soon have to freeze enrollment. Congress restored federal funding in early in 2018.

In addition, low-income families were bombarded by news reports last year of Congress threatening to repeal the health law that expanded coverage to millions. In the past two years, the Trump administration has slashed funding to Obamacare navigators to help people sign up for coverage.

Alker also pointed to the Trump administration’s September proposal, known as the “public charge” rule, which could make it harder for legal immigrants to get green cards if they have received certain kinds of public assistance — including Medicaid, food stamps and housing subsidies. Green cards allow them to live and work permanently in the United States.

OLE Health, a large health provider based in Napa Valley, Calif., that serves many immigrants, said it has seen patients disenroll from Medicaid in the past year. CEO Alicia Hardy said many have dropped coverage over fears the help could jeopardize their immigration status.

“They are afraid of being deported,” she said.

All those events could have deterred families from getting their kids covered. “The welcome mat has been pulled back and as a result we see more uninsured children,” Alker said.

She said the easiest way to change the trend would be for more states to expand Medicaid under the health law. Fourteen states have yet to do so. Though the expansion largely affects adults, as parents enroll, their children are likely to follow.

Kaiser Health News

Written by Kaiser Health News

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(30)
  • Dicr
    11/29/2018
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    Of course it did. Blame Trump and republicans for sabotaging what the people have said they wanted.

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  • Marylynn
    11/29/2018
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    The GOP have tried unsuccessfully to repeal the ACA 50 times and counting, all at the taxpayers expense. They refused to work with President Obama throughout his 8 years in office. Now with the dictator in the White House the GOP are whittling down the ACA and don't care in the least the almost 300,000 children have no health insurance, because it's not their kids or grandkids. It's sickening that we've got so many useless lawmakers that don't care about anyone except themselves, the wealthy and kissing Comrade Bone Spur's ass.

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  • Ronda
    11/29/2018
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    Who’s surprised by this? Once and for all, Republicans don’t care if Americans die! The sooner everyone understands that the Republicans don’t care about them, the easier it will be to solve problems. For Republicans, it’s all about the money. Specifically, how much are they getting, and who do they have to screw over for it?

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  • JTJ
    11/29/2018
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    So what? Just because a kid is uninsured doesn’t mean they don’t get healthcare. Repeal Obamacare and deregulate the industry. Then healthcare will be affordable for everyone.

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  • Mark
    11/29/2018
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    Depends on who’s doing the calculations doesn’t it? As I understand it children’s coverage actually increased by 4.7% this year? Something about figures don’t lie but liars do figure comes to mind.

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  • John
    11/29/2018
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    Universal single payer healthcare, cradle to grave!

    Like (3)
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  • Michael
    11/29/2018
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    Not a surprise under this administration. But hey, stocks are up and that’s what really matters.

    Like (3)
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  • Hillary
    11/29/2018
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    Universal health care NOW. Seeing a doctor should not be impossible for anyone in a country as wealthy as ours. Get rid of the insurance company middlemen who rape profits from both patients and medical providers.

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  • Ron
    11/29/2018
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    Under Trump the number of uninsured kids rose. The wealthiest country in the world should not let any child grow up without insurance. Do your job and fix this problem.

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  • Glowurm
    12/01/2018
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    So much for another campaign promise UNrealized! I distinctly remember he promised us the best healthcare EVER. So much for that, eh? Don’t anyone tell his freakishly, loyal base about this. They enjoy being ignorant. Let’s keep it our little secret, eh?

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  • James
    11/29/2018
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    Blame that all on OBAMA!

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  • David
    11/29/2018
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    Healthcare in the United States is a privilege available to the wealthy. The highest number of people in low income and poverty situations in this country are children. Consequence: fewer children have healthcare coverage. We still have to settle the question of whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. If it’s the former, ban insurance companies and eliminate the deceit of insurance. If it’s the latter, Universal Single Payer Healthcare should be little problem. The fundamental question needs to be answered first.

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  • Eileen
    11/29/2018
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    Of course it has! He and the senate majority could care less about anyone making under $500,000/year! Lock them up! This is abominable! And Americans “worried” about having. Black president or a female president! Hypocrisy!

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  • Tooluser1
    11/29/2018
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    "Under Trump?" Seriously? How about under Obamacare that Democrats rammed down our throats with "you have to pass it to read it"? Your "Affordable Care Act" isn't affordable or caring, idiots.

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  • 12yanogden
    11/29/2018
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    All men created equal? Quality health care is a human right that the United States does not recognize. Healthcare for all!

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  • J
    11/30/2018
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    Let’s make American health problems great again! These sick kids will use their family resources, learn less in school, work less productively in the future? How is this reduction in health support wise in any way? Is this Russia’s way of taking over the country?

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  • Edward
    11/30/2018
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    Another knife in the back for trumps supporters.

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  • Marc
    11/29/2018
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    You need to roll back the changes trump has made by executive orders and other means. But after the first of the year the house needs to take up universal healthcare

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  • Robert
    11/29/2018
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    Protect the future of our Country

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  • Ken
    11/29/2018
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    Contrary to popular opinion, healthcare is not a right. Mandatory healthcare is extortion. Why should I only have the option of paying for a $3000/month plan OR pay a penalty, when a man in LA or NY doesn’t work, is on welfare, and gets free healthcare? Be responsible for YOURSELVES and stay out of my pockets.

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