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Rate Of Uninsured Kids Continues To Rise, Report Says

Eric Risberg

The rate of uninsured children jumped last year by the biggest annual increase in more than 10 years, according to a report released Friday.

Last year about 4.4 million children were uninsured -- about 5.7 percent of kids -- according to the report from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.

The increase in uninsured kids continues to reverse what had been years of gains.

Until 2016, more children gained coverage under public programs like the Affordable Care Act and the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

"We've seen a stunning reversal of that progress in just the past three years," said Laura Stephany, health policy coordinator with Pittsburgh nonprofit Allies for Children, an organization focused on children's issues that advocates for all children to have health insurance.

"Each year, from 2016 to 2019, we've seen coverage losses happen for children across the country, and also including PA, as a part of that trend," she said.

A lack of insurance can have serious consequences for kids’ long-term health and well-being, she said. 

A number of factors have contributed to fewer kids being covered by insurance, said Stephany. Among them - a battle in Congress over reauthorizing CHIP, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, less funding for outreach and enrollment for the ACA, more red tape around state Medicaid programs, and the Trump administration's "public charge" rule, which discourages U.S. citizen children of immigrants from using public benefits.

Researchers said that rate of kids without health care coverage is likely much higher now than last year, due to the economic toll of the pandemic.

"[The report is] showing us heading into the pandemic with kids losing coverage. And the coverage losses occurred with a healthy economy, with the lowest unemployment rate in decades and prior to all the shocks we are experiencing as a result of the COVID pandemic," Stephany said.