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Florida’s Rate Of Uninsured Children Increases

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Georgetown University's Center For Children and Families
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The number and rate of uninsured children increased in Florida and across the nation in 2017, according to a report released today by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

It’s the first year that the rate in every state has increased since the center began tracking uninsured children in 2008, said the center’s director Joan Alker.

“And even more troubling, the number of uninsured children increased during a time of economic strength,” Alker said.

In Florida, the rate of uninsured children rose from 6.6 percent to 7.3 percent between 2016 and 2017. The increase of roughly 37,000 children, brings the total number of children in the state without insurance to 325,000.

States, like Florida, that did not expand Medicaid saw the biggest increases, Alker said.

And 2018 has brought more declines in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid, she said.

“So that was a big red flag to me that this number is probably going to continue to go in the wrong direction in 2018 in Florida,” she said.

Florida also saw declines in the number of children enrolled in employer-sponsored plans, Affordable Care Act plans and the national Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.

The majority of uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but are not enrolled, Alker said.

“So the name of the game here is to make sure that these families are aware that their child has a path to coverage and that these kids get enrolled and stay enrolled,” she said.

The uninsured rate increased over nearly all economic levels and it impacted blacks, whites, Hispanics and American Indians.  Children under six saw the biggest increase in uninsured rate, from 4.6 percent to 5.9 percent, according to the data.

“These findings are a stark warning that our nation’s progress in covering children is at risk,” Alker said.

The increase can’t be blamed on the economy, which was expanding in 2017, Alker said. Instead, she said it is likely due to the political climate, including attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid.

Also, in September 2017, funding for CHIP expired and congress delayed an extension until early 2018. Many families were told during the delay that their states may have to shut down their CHIP programs.

Cuts to the Affordable Care Act advertising, outreach and enrollment along with increases in premiums may also have had an impact, Alker said.

Finally, roughly one-quarter of citizen children living in the United States have an immigrant parent.

“For these mixed-status families there’s likely a heightened fear of interacting with the government and this may deter them from signing their eligible children up for government-sponsored health care,” Alker said.

Copyright 2018 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.
Julio Ochoa
Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.