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Report: Wisconsin Loses Gains in Kids' Health Coverage


Wisconsin News Connection is here.

MADISON, Wis. - For the first time in a decade, the number of children without health coverage in the United States has gone up.

According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, the number of uninsured kids rose by more than 275,000 in 2017, and nearly 4 million children in the U.S. now lack coverage. Wisconsin saw an increase of 3,000, which means now, about 53,000 kids are without health insurance.

Jon Peacock, research director for the group Kids Forward, says the state was making steady progress for several years, but has since leveled off. He believes it's because of the state's partial Medicaid expansion, which only covers adults below the federal poverty line. "We used to be a national leader, and as recently as 2013 Wisconsin had the 12th highest rate of kids with health-insurance coverage nationally," Peacock says, "and in the last four years, that slipped to 22nd nationally."

Peacock says states that have fully expanded Medicaid saw more families enroll, and adds that children are far more likely to be insured if their parents can access coverage. Compared with expansion states, the report found states that have not expanded Medicaid saw their uninsured rates increase three times faster for children in 2017.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, says the national increase in uninsured kids came during a year when the Trump administration cut the budget for publicizing affordable coverage and hiring "navigators" to help explain the enrollment process. "There's been a steady effort by the Trump administration to create a climate of intimidation for immigrant families," Alker adds. "So, a lot of uninsured kids are citizen kids, but they might have a parent who's an immigrant. And those families are increasingly worried about interacting with the government."

Alker believes it's in the nation's best interest long-term to build upon years of bipartisan progress in reducing the number of uninsured children. She adds that when children's health needs are met, their parents miss fewer days of work, kids are better able to learn in school and are better equipped to make positive contributions as adults.

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