by Jessica Seaman, The Denver Post via Tribune News Service
The number of children in Colorado with health insurance has increased for almost a decade, but now the decline in the state’s youth uninsured rate is stagnating — and advocates fear more children could lose coverage due to a rule change proposed by the Trump administration.
The number of uninsured children in Colorado remained unchanged in 2017, with about 57,000 individuals under 19 without coverage, according to a new report by Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families.
That stagnation comes after Colorado saw the percentage of children without health insurance drop from 14 percent in 2008 to 4.3 percent in 2016, according to Colorado Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit group advocating for children’s health and education.
“Holding steady over the last year is as good as about any state in the country did,” said Erin Miller, vice president of health initiatives at the Colorado Children’s Campaign.
Overall, the number of uninsured children in the U.S. jumped by roughly 276,000 to more than 3.9 million in 2017. It’s the first time in almost a decade that the number of uninsured children increased across the nation, according to the report. The numbers from 2017 are the most recent data available.
“We saw all 50 states either go backwards or stagnate,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families. “We’ve never seen that kind of uniformity in states.”
Washington, D.C., was the only place to see improvements in health insurance coverage for children.
Political events on the national stage attributed to a notion that public coverage was at risk, leading to the jump in uninsured children. For example, Congress spent much of the year debating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, lapsed for a period, Alker said.
“It is a product of some of these federal changes that have been made,” Miller added.
It’s expected that the number of uninsured children could increase nationwide under the “public charge” rule proposed by the Trump administration. The rule change would allow the government to consider the use of public health services when deciding to permit an immigrant into the U.S. or whether to issue a green card.
Such public services include Medicaid, the government health care program for low-income adults and children, and CHIP, which provides health coverage to kids and pregnant women in families that don’t qualify for Medicaid.
Advocates argue that the rule would deter members of the immigration community from seeking health care.
In Colorado, it’s projected that about 75,000 people could lose health insurance under the rule change, which would increase the state’s overall uninsured rate from 6.5 percent to 7.9 percent. About two-thirds of the individuals who would lose coverage are children, according to a report by the Colorado Health Institute.
“Even families who would not be impacted by the rule, who are not immigrant families, might pull their kids out of coverage programs,” Miller said.