The Rate of Uninsured Kids is Greatly Alarming – And it Continues to Rise in Tennessee

February 7, 2020 // Author: Kerry Keitzman

For a long time, the entire nation has been on a positive path to reduce the number and rate of children who are uninsured. However, that is unfortunately no longer the case. For the second year in a row, the rate of uninsured children went in the wrong direction and it continues to rise – a serious problem. This is incredibly dangerous because children are more likely to need services and have better outcomes for education. Healthcare for children is crucial for good childhood development.

In a new report published by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the number of children without health insurance has risen by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018. These are the highest levels of uninsured children since 2014 when the Affordable Care Act’s major coverage expansions took place. These losses in coverage are widespread across the nation with 15 states showing statistically significant increases, one of which is Tennessee.

Tennessee has sadly seen the biggest increase in uninsured kids in the nation with an estimated 83,000 who were uninsured which is approximately a 43 percent increase from 2016. This alone is shocking and proves that Tennessee needs to do better for the health of our children. Overall, the rate of uninsured children has increased in Tennessee from 3.7 percent in 2016 to 5.2 in 2018. Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center said, “This data shows that the declines in children’s enrollment we’ve seen this year have contributed to the country’s largest increase in uninsured kids. This should be a wake-up call for our state leaders to stop promoting policies like block grants and work reporting requirements that threaten even more coverage losses.” Additionally, she said, “We need to focus on solutions to reverse these troubling trends, like expanding Medicaid. We know when parents are insured, their children are more likely to be insured and the whole family is better protected from medical debt and financial insecurity.”

Recent policy changes and failing to prioritize children’s health have tanked bipartisan initiatives and the Affordable Care Act. This is mainly due to both the actions and inactions of the Trump Administration which have resulted in health care becoming harder to attain. Not only that, but the administration has also scared families away from enrolling their children in Medicaid and CHIP who would otherwise be eligible. States that have not expanded Medicaid to parents and other adults under the Affordable Care Act have consequently seen drastic increases in the rate of uninsured children at about three times higher than states who have expanded Medicaid.

Obviously, this needs to change because it is morally wrong for so many children to be uninsured. Children are our future and we need to start investing more in their health so that they can thrive in life. Tennessee, and the country, need to do better – and quickly.

Kerry Keitzman is a Children’s Health intern at the Tennessee Justice Center.