Alabama still has one of the lowest rates of uninsured children in the country, but its progress on that measure stalled in 2017, according to a report released Thursday by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families (CCF).
The state’s uninsured rate for children (3.1 percent) remained below the national average (5 percent) in 2017. But after years of improvement, Alabama’s number of uninsured children under 19 ticked up from 32,000 in 2016 to 36,000 in 2017. While the increase was not statistically significant, it is a warning sign that Alabama could slip backward in children’s health care if policymakers do not protect and expand coverage, Alabama Arise policy director Jim Carnes said.
“Alabama’s rate of uninsured children has improved from 20 percent to just 3.1 percent in the last two decades, and CHIP and Medicaid have played big roles in that success,” Carnes said. “Our state should build on those gains by expanding Medicaid to cover uninsured adults. Medicaid expansion would boost financial security for struggling parents and increase the odds that their children get and stay insured. It would be a win for children, a win for families and a win for Alabama.”
Congress’ delay last year in renewing federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was a driver of the uptick in Alabama’s number of uninsured kids, the Georgetown CCF study says. CHIP covers about 171,000 Alabama children living in families with low or moderate incomes, including more than 84,000 on ALL Kids. Congressional efforts to cap and cut Medicaid and undermine the Affordable Care Act also likely contributed to the increase, the report finds.