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Report: Uninsured Rate for Kids Growing Faster in Certain States

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Monday, March 15, 2021   

MADISON, Wis. -- A new report shows states that have resisted Medicaid expansion are putting kids at risk because not as many families are accessing consistent health care.

Wisconsin is among those states, but expansion supporters hope the new stimulus bill will result in action.

According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, Wisconsin's rate of uninsured children is at 3.8%, which is below the national average.

William Parke-Sutherland, health policy analyst for Kids Forward, said Wisconsin is in danger of losing ground to other states that have warmed up to the idea of using federal funds from the Affordable Care Act to expand their programs.

"We are sort of an outlier state as far as having a pretty good rate for kids' coverage and being a non-expansion state," Parke-Sutherland observed. "But that just means we could be doing better if we expanded Badger Care."

Wisconsin's number of uninsured kids has crept up in recent years, now standing at 53,000.

GOP leaders say they'll reject the latest plan from Gov. Tony Evers to expand Badger Care, noting the state doesn't have as many gap issues, while expressing concerns about federal funds drying up.

But supporters point to the stimulus package signed by President Joe Biden, which includes a new financial boost for Medicaid programs.

The package would pay each state's 10% share of the Medicaid costs for the next two years, and give them additional money to cover people who are uninsured.

Adam Searing, health-policy research professor at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the report's lead author, said this might be the incentive needed to get more states to expand their programs.

"It'll be a game-changer for any state that's interested in expanding," Searing contended. "Whether it's enough for the states that have really dug in and said, 'We don't want to expand,' I don't know. But I think it'll spur a lot of debate."

Overall, the report said between 2016 and 2019, the child uninsured rate in non-expansion states grew nearly three times as fast as in expansion states.

Health policy experts say if programs for adults are expanded, it's likely that their kids will become enrolled as well, resulting in healthier outcomes.

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


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