As we lament the swift reversal in health coverage for children of all ages, we also wanted to take an initial look at how this trend specifically impacts young children. Sadly, children under age 6 were not spared from coverage losses. As these tables detail, there are nearly 180,000 more uninsured young children than at the beginning of the Trump Administration. This translates to a nearly 1 percentage-point increase in the rate of uninsured children under age 6 between 2016 and 2019. (The uninsured rate for young children grew from 3.8% to 4.7% over the three-year period examined). Young children in 19 states showed significant increases in the number or rate of uninsured children under 6 — a large subset of the 29 states showing a significant rise in uninsurance among kids of all ages. Arizona saw the biggest jump in the uninsured rate for children under age 6, translating to a 33% increase in the number of preschool-aged children in that state alone. Texas saw 60,000 more young children without insurance, driving the state up to a 10 percent uninsured rate for young children.
Our annual 50-state report on trends for all children points to the disturbing fact that these coverage losses occurred during a time of economic growth and low unemployment– before the pandemic hit. What accounts for these widespread increases? Scalebacks to outreach and enrollment assistance, the “chilling effect” of the Trump Administration’s actions, and policy changes targeting immigrant families, and the ongoing red tape barriers that make it harder for families to enroll or stay enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP.
Only one state, Virginia, saw an improvement in the uninsured rate for young children during the same three-year period. Why? My money is on the state’s Medicaid expansion that started in 2019. The state’s Medicaid enrollment data shows increases among children and adults likely due to the welcome mat effect as newly eligible parents learn that their children are eligible for coverage too. I’m proud to live in a state that is bucking the trend for young children by covering their parents and caregivers!
We will have more to say on how to improve health coverage for young children as we dig into newly available data and explore trends on demographics such as race and ethnicity. These initial trends raise important questions: As young families face unprecedented stress and economic hardship, how will we help them support their children’s earliest months and years of development? The reversal of historic coverage gains should be a wake up call for our leaders professing support for our nation’s youngest children.