October 30, 2019

Report Shows Alarming Increase in Number of Uninsured Children in Florida

Analysis shows the number of uninsured children in Florida increased by 17.7 percent between 2016 and 2018, part of a larger national trend

Children in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are nearly twice as likely to be uninsured as those in states that expanded the program to low-income adults

STATEWIDE – The rate of uninsured children in Florida increased from 6.6 to 7.6 percent — a difference of 51,000 — between 2016 and 2018, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF). Hispanic children in Florida have been particularly hurt, with their uninsured rate climbing even higher to 9.3 percent.

The total number of uninsured children in the U.S. increased by 400,000 over the two-year period, due primarily to loss of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) benefits. Florida was among seven states CCF identified as having the sharpest increases in child uninsured rates.

Notably, children in states that have not expanded Medicaid to adults with low income are twice as likely to be uninsured as those in expansion states. It is well established that when states offer coverage to the whole family, children are more likely to be insured.

CCF’s analysis attributes the alarming uptick in uninsured rates to a number of factors, including:

  • efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid;
  • the creation of a climate of fear and confusion for immigrant families that discourages them from enrolling eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP, even though their children's enrollment will not affect other family members' immigration status; and
  • inadequate oversight of state Medicaid programs that have created more red tape barriers for families to apply and maintain coverage for their children.

“Florida children, and their parents, need access to life-saving medications, mental health services and treatment, and wellness checkups,” said Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute (FPI). “Yet state and federal lawmakers are instead putting up barriers to affordable health care coverage. Florida lawmakers have failed to expand Medicaid to adults with low income, despite multiple studies showing how expansion benefits residents’ health and generates state budget savings, and the Administration continues efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.”

"Making sure that children and adults have the security of health coverage is crucial for Florida's workforce and overall economy,” said Scott Darius, executive director of Florida Voices for Health.

“Our medical partners have witnessed firsthand how red tape barriers leading to the higher rate of uninsured kids -- including churn between Medicaid and CHIP due to fluctuating family income and imperfect enforcement of continuous Medicaid eligibility, have hurt children,” said Katy DeBriere, legal director of the Florida Health Justice Project. “It is also clear based on the evidence provided in CCF's report that expanding Medicaid would help ensure the enrollment (and health) of children and their caregivers.”

“Recent policy changes and the failure to make children’s health a priority have undercut bipartisan initiatives and the Affordable Care Act, which had propelled our nation forward on children’s health coverage,” said Joan Alker, executive director of CCF and a research professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy. “This serious erosion of child health coverage is due in large part to the Trump Administration’s actions or inactions that have made health coverage harder to access and have deterred families from enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP.”

FPI is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing state policies and budgets that improve the economic mobility and quality of life for all Floridians.

CCF is 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.

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