November 06, 2014
By Bryan Schott,
A new report by a Georgetown University research center found the number of uninsured children in Utah declined by 21 percent between 2008 and 2013.
The report attributes the lower numbers of uninsured children to the success of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid. However, funding for CHIP will run out in September 2015 if Congress does not pass legislation to extend funding. An estimated 37,000 Utah children would lose CHIP coverage if Congress fails to act.
“Congress should extend CHIP funding now,” said Lincoln Nehring, Senior Health Policy Analyst at Voices for Utah Children. “Waiting longer will be too late for Utah to contract CHIP providers and will threaten health services for kids.”
In spite of the improvement, Utah children continue to fare worse than their counterparts nationwide. Only 7.1% of American children were uninsured in 2013, compared with 9.5% in Utah. An estimated 85,000 children remain uninsured in Utah. There are more uninsured children in Utah than total residents of Ogden.
National experts suggest that expanding health insurance to low-income parents, as proposed by Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan, could result in more parents enrolling their children in health insurance.
“Research has shown that covering parents reduces the number of uninsured children,” said Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. “Children thrive when their parents are healthy and economically secure so improvements in health coverage for parents benefit the whole family.”
“There are 44,000 low-income Utah parents who would benefit from the governor’s Healthy Utah plan,” added Nehring. “Many of these families are only one medical bill away from financial disaster.”
While more Utah children are insured overall, some children are being left behind. Utah Hispanic children are more than twice as likely to be uninsured as other Utah children. In 2013, 22.2% of Hispanic Utah children were uninsured.
Utah can insure more Hispanic Utah children by accepting federal dollars to cover more low-income families under Medicaid. Restoring Medicaid and CHIP outreach funding that the legislature recently cut would also help reach eligible Hispanic children, as well as removing the five-year enrollment waiting period for legal immigrant children.
Even though Utah has not yet passed the governor’s Healthy Utah plan or accepted funding to expand Medicaid, many uninsured children may already be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP coverage. Families who would like help enrolling should call 1-877-KIDS-NOW or 1-877-543-7669 or visit https://jobs.utah.gov/mycase/.