Obamacare brings child uninsured rate to historic low

A Georgetown study reveals that the Affordable Care Act has brought the number of uninsured children in the country to an all-time low.

The health insurance data from the US Census Bureau for 2014 is finally in, and the latest numbers signal some significant changes for health policy. According to a news release from Georgetown University, a recent study has find that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the number of children lacking health insurance in the country is at an all-time low.

The study found that the rate of children who are uninsured in the U.S. dropped to 6 percent in 2014. The study cites the Affordable Care Act as the main driver of dropping uninsured rates, which built on a decade of progress by Medicaid and CHIP.

As of now, there are still 4.4 million uninsured children in the country. While the ACA focused on expanding access to healthcare for adults, it still did offer expanded options for coverage to children. Many uninsured children were eligible for coverage under Medicaid or CHIP prior to the rollout of the ACA, and the expansions for eligibility certainly helped put a dent in the overall uninsured rate.

There were a number of different policies in the ACA that had an effect on children’s access to health care. One of the most important was the maintenance-of-effort provision, which required states to maintain their current levels of eligibility for children without scaling options back. The legislation also removed premiums for a number of children were moved from CHIP programs to Medicaid in certain states.

The ACA also helped children by removing barriers to access like asset tests and personal interviews. States were encouraged to simplify their application and renewal processes by accepting grants to upgrade their technical systems. States were required to verify eligibility through data sources like the Social Security Administration to reduce the burden on families seeking healthcare.

Support for the ACA led to what the study called the “welcome mat effect.” People organized outreach and enrollment events, and parents of eligible children were encouraged to sign up for coverage.

States who also expanded healthcare for adults saw significant gains in coverage for children. Despite many states’ protests to expanding Medicaid, researchers found a significant boost in the number of children receiving coverage in states where adults had increased access to healthcare. The rate of coverage in states that expanded Medicare nearly doubled compared to those that didn’t.

Despite the strong national numbers, there still exist significant geographic disparities between states. Nevada had the biggest improvement, with uninsured rates dropping from 15 percent to 10 percent in just a year. Colorado, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Rhode Island all posted significant gains in coverage as well.

Texas has taken the lead in uninsured rates. Despite a decline in uncovered children, there are currently 800,000 children without access to healthcare in the state, at a rate of 11 percent.

Uninsured children were more likely to come from the South. Most of the children without coverage were of school age and Hispanic descent, the study found. The data paints a promising picture of the ACA’s progress so far, as states continue to make improvements to healthcare systems that ultimately increase the opportunities for children and their families to access the healthcare they need.

An executive summary of the study outlining its key findings can be found here.

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