Uninsured children increasing at rapid rate according to study

An estimated 142,000 North Carolina children were uninsured last year, a number that has increased about 23 percent since 2016, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. About 27,000 more North Carolina children were uninsured in 2019 than in 2016. The state’s experience is part of a national trend that left an estimated 726,000 more children without health coverage nationwide since our country achieved an historic low number of uninsured children. Much of the coverage gains of the Affordable Care Act for children have now been eliminated. Nationally, coverage losses have been concentrated in the South and West and have been largest for white and Latinx children.

An estimated 142,000 North Carolina children were uninsured last year, a number that has increased about 23% since 2016, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. About 27,000 more North Carolina children were uninsured in 2019 than in 2016.

The state’s experience is part of a national trend that left an estimated 726,000 more children without health coverage nationwide since our country achieved an historic low number of uninsured children. Much of the coverage gains of the Affordable Care Act for children have now been eliminated. Nationally, coverage losses have been concentrated in the South and West and have been largest for white and Latinx children.

“For decades, children’s health coverage had been a national success story that we could point to with pride, but the data shows that the trend is now going in the wrong direction,” said Georgetown University Center for Children and Families Executive Director Joan Alker. “What’s worse, the number of children losing coverage accelerated from 2018 to 2019 during a time when unemployment was very low. The situation is likely worse today.”

Data also show a surge of uninsurance among the state’s preschool-aged children, with nearly 9,000 more children under age 6 becoming uninsured during the three-year period, a nearly 36% increase for this age group.

The state’s uninsured rate for Latinx children, who can be of any race, was 13.3% in 2019 – almost 1.5 times higher than the national rate for Hispanic/Latinx children and almost 2.5 times higher than the national rate for all children.

The increase in the number and rate of uninsured children occurred between 2016 and 2019, prior to the pandemic and associated economic downturn. The increase is attributable to losses of public coverage – primarily Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The situation for children has most likely deteriorated in 2020 as their parents lost their jobs and health coverage this year, but there is still no reliable data to estimate the extent of these coverage losses.

“After successfully reducing the child uninsured rate in our state, we are now seeing a growing number of North Carolina’s children going without health coverage,” said Michelle Hughes, Executive Director of NC Child. “This damaging trend will have long-term consequences for children and communities across North Carolina because without health coverage, children cannot access the care they need to grow and thrive.”

Research shows children with health coverage are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and grow up to be healthier and more productive adults.

“These data show that it’s more important than ever for our leaders to make it easier for parents and children to get access to affordable health care,” said Hughes. “That includes things like passing Medicaid expansion, combining the state’s Health Choice and Medicaid programs, and doing better outreach to families with children who may be eligible.” 

The report analyzes single-year estimates of summary data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) from 2016 through 2019.

This is the 10th annual report on uninsured children published by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable coverage for America’s children and families. The report analyzes single-year estimates of summary data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) from 2016 through 2019. For more information about the report, visit ccf.georgetown.edu

NC Child is a non-profit organization that builds a strong North Carolina by advancing public policies to ensure all children – regardless of race, ethnicity, or place of birth – have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. www.ncchild.org