State News

Fewer Wisconsin children have health insurance than they did last year

About 53,000 Wisconsin children, or 3.9 percent, did not have health coverage in 2017, a slight increase from the previous year, according to a report.

The number of uninsured Wisconsin children rose by 3.9 percent in 2017, departing from a decade-long trend of falling rates of uninsurance, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

About 53,000 Wisconsin children, or 3.9 percent, did not have health coverage in 2017, a slight increase from the previous year, according to the report.

Nationally, three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in the 19 states that have not expanded Medicaid. The analysis shows that in Wisconsin, which has not fully expanded Medicaid, there has been no improvement in the child uninsured rate since 2015.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University research center and a research professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy, pointed to the correlation between falling insurance rates and Medicaid expansion as a possible factor driving the decline.

“With an improving economy and low unemployment rate, the fact our nation is going backwards on children’s health coverage is very troubling,” said Alker. “This report, particularly for states that did not expand Medicaid, is a warning sign to policymakers. Barring new and serious efforts to get back on track, there is every reason to believe the decline in children’s coverage is likely to continue and may get worse.”

William Parke-Sutherland, the Health Policy Engagement Coordinator at Kids Forward, said Wisconsin’s ranking nationally has slipped from 12th to 22nd over the past four years.

“The substantial drop in our ranking illustrates that Wisconsin could be doing a much better job of helping uninsured children participate in BadgerCare and get the health care they need,” Parke-Sutherland said.

Another factor could be the nation’s increasingly hostile attitude toward immigrants, the report suggested.

“One quarter of children living in the United States has a parent who is an immigrant,” the report said. “For these ‘mixed status’ families, there is likely a heightened fear of interacting with the government and this may be deterring them from signing their eligible children up for government sponsored health coverage.”

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