Ohio News Connection

A new report says Ohio is seeing a serious deterioration in children’s health coverage.

According to the findings from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the number of Ohio kids without health insurance rose nearly 28% between 2016 and 2018. In 2016, the same researchers reported the lowest number of uninsured children in a decade.

Tracy Najera, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund Ohio, says it’s especially concerning to see the increase is happening during a period of economic growth.

“Making sure that all children are covered and getting the care they need is significant,” says Najera, “and it’s a part of the Ohio that we all want for our children. However, we’ve seen an erosion in the rates of insurance coverage.”

Nationally, the number of uninsured kids increased by 11% between 2016 and 2018. The report found in Ohio, 29,000 more children are uninsured compared to two years ago, even though state leaders adopted Medicaid expansion in 2014.

Najera describes a combination of actions and inaction by the Trump administration as making health insurance harder to get and keeping some families from enrolling their children.

“Delays in funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program at the federal level and elimination of the individual mandate penalty,” says Najera. “Cuts to enrollment outreach and advertising for enrollment is another issue that we think is contributing to this.”

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, points out that across the nation, cycling in and out of health coverage is a problem at any time in a person’s life, but it’s especially harmful for children.

“Any short period of un-insurance exposes that parent to medical debt,” says Alker. “If a kid falls down on the playground, breaks an arm – happens all the time. So, we really need these kids to have continuous health coverage.”

Researchers found the loss of coverage was most pronounced for white and Latino children, and they suggest a climate of fear may discourage immigrant families from enrolling eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP.

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