New report shows number of uninsured children rising in Oklahoma

A new national report shows the number of uninsured Oklahoma children held steady last year, however the rate remains significantly higher than the national average. 

The report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families found that 8.2 percent of Oklahoma children in 2018 did not have health insurance, up from 8.1 percent the previous year. This compares with the 2018 national average of 5.2 percent, up from 5% in 2017. Oklahoma again this year had the third highest uninsured rate when reviewing results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

Health care coverage is important for children because it improves access to pediatrician-recommended care and services that support healthy development, the report noted. When children get the health care they need, they are more likely to succeed in school, graduate from high school and attend college, earn higher wages, and grow up into healthy adults.

In Oklahoma, Native American children were the largest uninsured population at 18.8 percent, followed by Hispanic children at 10.4 percent, Asian children at 6.8 percent, and Black children at 6.5 percent. 

Southern states had a disproportionately large share of uninsured kids relative to their child population, according to the report. Three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2018 lived in states, like Oklahoma, that did not expand Medicaid to low-income adults. The uninsured rate for children in these states increased at triple the rate experienced by those in states that had expanded, the report found. 

Nationally, the report found the number of uninsured children increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, reversing a long-standing positive trend. More than 4 million children nationwide were uninsured last year, with the report identifying the following factors contributing to the erosion in children’s health coverage: 

  • efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid; 
  • delays in funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program; 
  • elimination of the individual mandate penalty; 
  • cuts to enrollment outreach and advertising; 
  • inadequate oversight over state Medicaid programs that have created more red tape barriers; and 
  • the creation of a climate of fear and confusion for immigrant families that discourages them from enrolling eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from OSU and worked as a reporter for three years at Arkansas' second-largest daily newspaper. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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