Press Releases

Contact: Michele Kayal
Phone: 202-866-0648
Email: michelek@firstfocus.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

First Focus on Children calls for urgent action to address rise in uninsured children

Health

Contact: Michele Kayal, MicheleK@firstfocus.org, text/call: 703-919-8778

The U.S. Census Bureau today released 2018 data that show the number of children without health insurance in America rose to 5.5 percent, an increase of more than 10 percent.  That rate — up from 5.0 percent in 2017 — represents the reversal of two decades of progress. Notably Hispanic children suffered the most; their uninsured rate increased a full percentage point to 8.7 percent.

Children are not moving to private insurance, the data show, contrary to claims by the Trump Administration. In fact, Medicaid and CHIP coverage dropped by 1.2 percent while private coverage was unchanged. The policies of this Administration have directly contributed to the increase in uninsured children. These policies include:

  • the chilling effect of the Trump Administration’s public charge rule and rhetoric related to immigration, which likely had a large effect on the numbers of uninsured Hispanic children;
  • increased bureaucracy and non-health related changes to Medicaid enrollment for adults and parents, including work requirements;
  • slashed outreach and consumer assistance efforts,
  • and overall increases in red tape at the state level.

Reacting to today’s Census Bureau data, First Focus on Children released the following statement from First Focus President Bruce Lesley:

“Today’s Census Bureau report confirms what children’s advocates have known since this Administration began its attack on children’s health coverage. By not making improvements in children’s health coverage and outcomes a goal, children’s insurance rates have gone by the wayside. For the first time in decades we see almost 4.3 million uninsured kids. Who is looking out for them and making sure eligible kids are enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP? We implore this Administration to pull back the public charge rule, stop approving work requirements in Medicaid waivers, commit to fully funding Medicaid, keep the Medicaid Access rule, and increase efforts in Medicaid and CHIP outreach and enrollment. Congress should pass legislation to eliminate bureaucratic red tape that hinders coverage and enrollment, enact 12-month and five years continuous eligibility for children, make CHIP permanent, and hold oversight hearings into CHIP and Medicaid programs at the state and federal level.”

In 1997, the Census-reported child uninsurance rate was 15 percent. The passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that year and its partnership with Medicaid cut the uninsurance rate among children by two-thirds until today’s reversal.

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