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The Number of Uninsured Children in the U.S. Increased for First Time in Almost a Decade

November 30, 2018

Following a historic low during 2016, the uninsured rate among children in the United States has increased. From 2016 to 2017, newly released data from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families shows that an estimated 276,000 more children were uninsured. Nationwide, the percentage of children without health insurance increased from 4.7 percent during 2016, to 5 percent during 2017.

This is the first time since 2008 that the rate of uninsured children in the U.S. has increased.

Noting the improving economy and low unemployment rate, the report suggests that changes in national policy may be influencing this change in direction:

  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate
  • Continued cuts to federal outreach and enrollment funding in conjunction with a shortened open enrollment period for health insurance signups via HealthCare.gov
  • Policies targeting immigrant communities

States without Medicaid expansion saw the highest increases in uninsured children. Of the estimated 276,000 children who lost insurance coverage during 2017, three-quarters live in states that have not expanded Medicaid.

The report provides recommendations to states to ensure that more children have insurance coverage, including:

  • Expanding Medicaid to parents and other adults
  • Allowing children from higher income levels to qualify for Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage
  • Launching state-based initiatives to protect consumers and stabilize marketplace coverage
  • Improving enrollment and retention procedures
  • Investing in more outreach and enrollment activities directed at eligible families

In Pennsylvania, the uninsured rate among children is 4.4 percent, unchanged from 2016, and lower than the national average. Pennsylvania expanded its Medicaid program effective January 1, 2015. HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals supported Medicaid expansion, which increases insurance coverage among eligible individuals.

Pennsylvania’s Insurance Department provides many resources that explain health insurance options for residents, provide information about health insurance literacy, and how to select health insurance.

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