October 29, 2015

Children’s uninsured rate at new low

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – More children in New Mexico and around the nation now have health coverage.

Little girl getting a flu shotAccording to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the rate of uninsured children dropped to a historic low of six percent nationally in 2014, the year the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect.

Abuko Estrada, staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, cites the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under the ACA as a significant factor for the increased coverage of children in the state. He says the move helped create what he calls a “welcome mat effect” when adults went looking for insurance.

“Because their parents were going to see what options they had to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we were able to capture some of those kids that were missing,” he says.

New Mexico was one of 13 states with uninsured rates higher than the national average, according to the study, but the state did make gains. In 2013, an estimated 43,000 New Mexico kids weren’t insured – that number dropped to just over 36,000 in 2014.

Estrada says while the overall improvements are positive, there’s still work to do. According to the study, just under 4.4 million children in the U.S. still don’t have health insurance.

The report demonstrates that after the rollout of the ACA, 25 states recorded declines in the number of uninsured children, and no state showed significant increases. Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director at Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, says the study confirms that years of work by policymakers and other stakeholders to reform health care in the U.S. is starting to pay off.

“The Affordable Care Act, which is a significant domestic policy initiative, was really building on a decade of success for kids with Medicaid and CHIP,” says Alker. “But we did see a significant decline from 7.1 percent to six percent in the rate of uninsured kids.”

The report also found that Hispanic and school-aged children were disproportionately uninsured, as well as children living in rural areas or low-income families. Alker says if more states decide to expand adult eligibility for Medicaid coverage, uninsured rates for children could drop even further.