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Illinois Sees 46% Spike in Number of Uninsured Kids

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Monday, October 12, 2020   

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Even during a time when the economy was notably strong, Illinois lost ground in ensuring children have access to health coverage. An annual report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families reveals in 2019, roughly 120,000 kids in Illinois were uninsured - a 46% increase from 2016.

Chi Chi Okwu, executive director with EverThrive Illinois, explained the increase mirrored national trends, which are not equal among demographics.

"Nationally, Latinx children are the most likely to be uninsured, and they have seen the largest increases in the uninsured rate over the last three years," Okwu said. "Additionally, children and families living near or below the federal poverty line are more likely to be uninsured than families with higher incomes."

Illinois ranks third among states for the largest increase in its number of uninsured children, adding roughly 38,000, and Cook County ranked among the top counties nationally for the number of kids without health coverage.

The report cited federal policies for much of the change.

Executive Director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families Joan Alker said the jump in uninsured rates could be linked to efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. She explained without funding for outreach and 'navigators' to assist with enrollment, some parents don't even try to sign up.

"Families have been getting negative messages that coverage is going away, at the same time that community-based resources to help them find public coverage have shrunk," Alker said.

The data on uninsured kids was collected before the pandemic and is expected to increase due to the number of people who've lost employer-based health insurance since the economic downturn.

Okwu thinks Illinois needs to ramp up its outreach to ensure people have access to affordable coverage.

"Whether that's Medicaid or the ACA exchanges; these programs really help thousands of Illinois get insured and connected to care by providing free and unbiased support in completing applications and selecting insurance plans that work best for them," Okwu said.

She said research shows having health insurance improves health outcomes, academic achievement and economic security throughout a child's life.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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