Despite stable numbers for WI, concerns linger over kids' uninsured rate
A new report found Wisconsin is holding the line in preventing children from going without health insurance, but advocates for families who qualify argued more efficiencies are needed to help them stay enrolled in key programs.
The latest summary from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families looks at the uninsured rates for children across the country. From 2019 to 2021, Wisconsin saw a slight uptick in the number of children lacking health coverage, with the number now at 54,000.
William Parke-Sutherland, health policy analyst for the group Kids Forward, said despite the small increase, work is needed to help Medicaid-eligible families avoid pitfalls in re-enrolling.
"Sometimes paperwork gets lost in the mail, sometimes it's sent to the wrong address, sometimes it's in a language folks have trouble understanding," Parke-Sutherland outlined.
Even though Wisconsin is holding steady, Parke-Sutherland pointed out its uninsured rate is still higher than all of its neighboring states, which have expanded Medicaid. Wisconsin has yet to do so. However, the Badger State is below the national rate of uninsured children, which stands at 5.4%.
Beyond some of the typical enrollment barriers, the report's authors warned extra federal support for Medicaid during the pandemic will eventually lapse.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said it could result in big coverage gaps around the U.S.
"The bad news is that this continuous coverage protection is likely to expire early next year," Alker noted. "And we have estimated that the child uninsured rate is very possibly going to double when that happens, which is a very scary thought."
In Wisconsin, Kids Forward said expanding Medicaid would close some of the gap. After the election, the state still has a divided government, and Republicans have thwarted recent attempts to join the expansion list, but Parke-Sutherland emphasized there is room for hope.
"South Dakota just voted to expand Medicaid," Parke-Sutherland observed. "Many, many red states have voted to expand Medicaid. "
Under the Affordable Care Act, states are given incentives to expand their Medicaid programs, with the federal government covering 90% of the costs.