Pa’s uninsured rate increased, 8th highest number of uninsured kids in the nation
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), the only statewide advocacy organization with a public policy agenda that spans the life of a child prenatally through adulthood, today released the 2020 State of Children’s Health Care Report.
“No child should be without health insurance in Pennsylvania,” said PPC President and CEO Kari King. “This report sets forth a robust public policy agenda that child health care advocates, medical professionals and policymakers can use to maintain and strengthen the ability of Pennsylvania children to access a full spectrum of medical care. Working together we can give children the key to achieving life-long learning and future success, because no child should be locked out of a healthy childhood.”
According to the most recent Census data, Pennsylvania has the 8th highest number of uninsured kids in the nation with nearly 128,000 children who do not have health insurance, and ultimately do not have regular access to care for optimal development and learning.
Since last year’s report, Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate increased slightly from 4.4% to 4.6%. Although it remains lower than the national average of 5.7%, the state rate is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to children’s health insurance.
Factors such as age, poverty level, race and ethnicity, and geographic region impact children’s access to health insurance. In the commonwealth, children younger than six years of age and children from low-income families are more likely to be uninsured, and children who identify as American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, or White have increasing uninsured rates compared to the prior year.
Some additional key findings include:
- Hispanic/Latino children’s uninsured rates decreased this year, falling from 4.9% to 4.7%;
- Children living in low-income families are more likely to be uninsured, at a rate 41% higher than the statewide uninsured rate;
- Asian children, whose population is more than 101,000 children in Pennsylvania, saw a statistically significant increase in their uninsured rate; and
- A majority of counties with the highest uninsured rates are rural.
“Keep in mind, the most recent uninsured data from the U.S. Census Bureau was captured prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, meaning more Pennsylvania kids headed into the public health emergency without basic health coverage,” stated King.
Even though the country’s unemployment rate was the lowest it had been in recent years, decreases in Medicaid enrollment and efforts in Washington over the past several years to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and undermine Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are likely factors that contributed to the loss of health insurance for more kids during 2019.
The report’s release comes on the eve of the Supreme Court hearing another case on the ACA. 840,000 Pennsylvanians have gained access to health coverage because of the ACA. Ten years after passage of the law children and families have come to rely on fair insurance policies, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and the elimination of lifetime benefit caps helping children and youth with special health care needs.
The Urban Institute recently projected that more than 21 million Americans will be newly uninsured in 2022, including 1.7 million children, if the ACA is overturned. In Pennsylvania, 77,000 children under age 19, would become uninsured losing the coverage they need to grow up healthy and succeed in life.
“When parents have health coverage, their eligible children are more likely to enroll and access needed care. Overturning the ACA would not only drive millions of low-income parents into the ranks of the uninsured but their children too,” said King. “It is too important to be undone now.”
For more information on enrollment for children’s health care coverage, visit:
- Pennie™ 1-844-844-8040 or online
- CHIP 1-800-986-KIDS (5437) or online
- Medicaid 1-866-550-4355 or online
In addition to health care coverage, several social determinants of health are a focus of the report. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social determinants of health are conditions where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes. There are many broad social or socioeconomic factors that can impact a person’s overall health, including:
- Maternal health: Ensuring that every child in Pennsylvania can grow up to become healthy, productive adults starts at the very beginning. Maternal and child health is intertwined, so focusing on improving the physical and mental well-being of moms brings improving the outcomes for infants and children into focus. Ensuring moms have continuous health insurance during the full year following childbirth is a key priority, especially given the medically vulnerable time period this presents and the appalling maternal mortality figures for birthing women in the United States. The sad truth is that pregnant women and new moms are dying at an alarming rate in one of the richest nations in the world. This becomes even more troubling as the CDC reports that about 3 in 5 pregnancy-related deaths could have been prevented.
- Access to safe, lead-free housing: It may seem like a toxin of the past, but exposure to lead remains a persistent health risk. There is no safe level of lead exposure. The environment in which children live and play could put them at risk for lead poisoning, and the effects could last a lifetime. The primary source of exposure are lead-based paint chips and dust and Pennsylvania children are particularly at risk due to the commonwealth’s aging infrastructure. Pennsylvania has the 5th largest housing stock in the country, 55% of which was built before 1960. Additionally, the commonwealth is ranked 47th in terms of aging apartment stock, with only 21% built after 1979, the year after lead-paint was banned.
- Nutrition: No child should have to worry about their next meal and whether they will have enough to eat. Hunger and lack of nutrition negatively impacts a child’s cognitive development and impairs healthy development. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) aims to curb nutritional risk and provide food security for low-income families. In the commonwealth, WIC provides nutritious food along with nutrition education, baby formula, and breastfeeding support for 188,000 moms and their young children up to age five, representing a 6% decline statewide over the past year. Even more troubling, the largest drop in WIC enrollment over the prior year was for infants, at 12%.
- Access to oral health care: Poor oral health is closely linked to other diseases that can affect the entire body, illustrating that oral hygiene and pediatric dental check-ups should be prioritized as early as possible. In addition to becoming very painful, children with untreated cavities were more than three times more likely to miss school and have substantially lower academic performance. Income level is a significant factor in determining a child’s risk for developing tooth decay. Research indicates the rate of untreated dental disease increases as household income decreases. A recent study from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found that geographic access was not equal across the commonwealth as urban dentist supply rates were nearly twice that of rural rates. Further, large rural areas didn’t have access to Medicaid dental services. The study also found that barriers limiting access for low-income families often included difficulty managing a complex oral health system, lack of transportation, difficulty arranging child care or time off work.