The number of U.S. children without health insurance rose last year for the first time in a decade

Fewer kids have health insurance than in 2016
(Image credit: XiXinXing/iStock)

The number of children with no health insurance coverage in the U.S. rose last year, reversing more than a decade of steady improvement, Georgetown's Center for Children and Families said in a report released Thursday. The uptick isn't much — a rise to 5 percent of children without insurance, or about 276,000 more uninsured children, from 4.7 percent in 2016 — but "with an improving economy and a very low unemployment rate, the fact that our nation is going backwards on children's health coverage is very troubling," said Joan Alker, the director of the center and lead author of the report.

In 2008, the year Georgetown began tracking these data, 9.7 percent of U.S. kids 18 and under were uninsured. That number dropped sharply between 2013, when the Affordable Care Act kicked in, and 2016. And the increase last year is very likely due to policies pursued by President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, the Georgetown researchers said, citing the GOP's well-publicized but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to dismantle ObamaCare and cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); last-year's months-long lapse in CHIP reauthorization; the slashing of funding for programs to help low-income people enroll in ObamaCare plans; and recent moves to deny green cards to legal immigrants who use social services like food stamps and Medicaid.

"Without serious efforts to get back on track, the decline in coverage is likely to continue in 2018 and may, in fact, get worse for America's children," Alker said. No state significantly reduced the number of uninsured children, the report found, while nine states — South Dakota, Utah, Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina,, Ohio, Tennessee,, and Massachusetts — saw their numbers rise. More than 20 percent of U.S. uninsured children — 835,000 — lived in Texas, where the rate rose to 10.7 percent. Nationwide, 3.9 million children lacked health insurance, Georgetown said, basing its research on census data. The overall uninsured rate for all ages held steady at 8.8 percent.

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