Nathaniel Weixel | 10/30/2019
The number of uninsured children in the U.S. increased for the second year in a row and now tops 4 million, the most since ObamaCare became law, according to a new report released Wednesday.
According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the number of uninsured children increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018.
The report found that the increase has wiped out a large share of the coverage gains made since the enactment of the health care law in 2014 and is due in large part to policies championed by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress.
According to researchers, ObamaCare helped more children obtain health coverage. But beginning in 2017, the number of uninsured children began to rise.
The report specifically cited the confusion surrounding the administration’s failed attempt to repeal ObamaCare, the successful elimination of the law’s individual mandate and a months-long delay in funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
In addition, the report cited the Trump administration’s decision to dramatically cut ObamaCare outreach and enrollment grants while also shortening the open enrollment period.
“At a time when families need more help navigating the confusing health coverage landscape, fewer resources are available for ObamaCare outreach and enrollment efforts as a result of cuts made by the administration in 2017,” the report said.
The report, which was based on an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, found seven states where the uninsured rate for children increased most sharply. Texas has the largest proportion of uninsured children and is home to more than 1 in 5 uninsured children in the U.S.
Three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2018 live in GOP-led states that have not expanded Medicaid. The uninsured rate for children in those states increased at three times the rate as children in expansion states.
Only one state, North Dakota, showed improvement during this two-year time period, which the report said suggests “that even well-intentioned states are hard pressed to overcome a negative national climate which is reducing children’s enrollment in public coverage programs.”
The majority of uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but are not currently enrolled.
“The decline in health coverage occurred at a time when children should have been gaining coverage in the private market and is a red flag for policymakers, as even more children would likely lose coverage in an economic downturn,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
Researchers also pointed to President Trump's crackdown on immigration as a reason why the number of uninsured kids is rising.
Several policies targeting immigrant communities, like the administration's "public charge" rule, are likely deterring parents from enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP, despite the fact that most of these children are U.S. citizens.